Big changes are coming to A.A. Comeaux Park, changes some Abbeville officials believe are necessary to help shore up the city’s future.

During Tuesday night’s regular meeting, the Abbeville City Council adopted a resolution giving preliminary approval to issue revenue bonds not to exceed $3 million.

Once approved, those funds would facilitate vast improvements at A.A. Comeaux Park, including adding artificial turf to baseball fields, construction of additional parking and numerous other projects.

Work should be completed by the start of next summer.

“We are in dire need in this community to get our kids involved,” Councilman Francis Touchet Jr.said. “To get those kids involved, we have to have something attractive.”

Touchet said that is part of what he sees as a two-fold effort.

“Number one, it provides opportunities for kids,” Touchet said. “Number two…We have to think about 10 and 20 years from now.

“What do we have to be able to draw people here?”

Earlier this month, Mayor Mark Piazza created a committee to look into what improvements could be made at the parks. Along with Touchet, Piazza appointed Councilman Brady Broussard Jr.

“We are studying a concept to bring 20 to 25 baseball teams and

their families to Abbeville,” Broussard said. “Studies from economists show that 25 teams that go to a community produce $650,000 of economic development. Those are not my numbers, and those are formulas that can tell you what comes with these people. That creates lines at (our restaurants). They need hotels to stay in, and they need gasoline to put in their cars.”

Broussard cited similar investments made in Crowley, Broussard, and Youngsville, to name a few.

“Crowley spent $6 million,” Broussard said. “We’re not proposing to do that. We believe this is something that the council should study because it is working for Crowley. They made $80,000 a month in concessions alone after making these improvements. That’s how big this is.”

Touchet said that is a perfect example of what Abbeville aims to do.

“That is the revenue source that I am talking about,” Touchet said.

He said it also serves as an even better example of what the city hopes to provide kids.

“One councilman in Crowley said enrollment as far as their youth in sports is up 400%,” Touchet said. “Those kids are attracted to those facilities.”

Councilman Francis Plaisance said his overall concern is making sure Abbeville kids whose families cannot afford to play sports have an opportunity. Parks and Recreation Director Tommy Picard said that is a continued effort.

“I’m meeting with people, and we are going to have a fundraiser,” Picard said. “I am hustling up people to sponsor players. We have 30 kids who weren’t going to play flag football, who now have the opportunity.”

As for the proposed improvements at A.A. Comeaux, turf infields will be placed on Theriot, Sellers, Luquette, Delcambre, Varhoff, Shelby and Parker fields.

There will be new concession stands and upgrades to restrooms. Badon Field will be removed, replaced by an asphalt parking lot that will hold nearly 300 vehicles. Picard, who has been involved with youth sports for 47 years, said he is confident these improvements will yield positive results.

“This is a no-brainer, ” Picard said. “People are going to spend money. We have letters from two organizations. We are going to get tournaments.”

Picard said these improvements could also help generate funds to build a new gymnasium at A.A. Comeaux Park, something both Councilwoman Terry Broussard and Plaisance said they want to see.

Piazza said he wants to see Abbeville make an investment to spark something bigger for its future, both economically and for its youth.

“I am not one to just go squander money or buy new stuff just to have new stuff,” Piazza said. “I was convinced by Councilman Touchet and Councilman Brady, that this is about the survival of Abbeville and its economy…People are moving to places where there are amenities for their kids. This is an avenue for us to get our kids, and kids from out of town, to build this program up. We want to continue to compete and help our restaurants and hotels and bring the economy back to Abbeville. I think this is the answer to help all of our kids.

“It’s time to set a positive trail.”

Touchet said Tuesday served as the first step in that direction.

“We are moving forward,” Touchet said. “Tonight is history. Twenty-five years from now, we will look back that this meeting is where it started.

“We still have a long way to go, but we are moving in the right direction.”

Originally published in Abbeville Meridional, 8/22/21