For the last couple years, students at Gilliard Elementary School have taken a field trip to the Brookley Aeroplex to follow the work being done at and around the site of the Airbus A320 final assembly line under construction. Now, if a local nonprofit group has its way, those same students will be able to witness test flights from a Doyle Park, where a group of local business leaders is looking for private money to help revitalize the facilities to give back to the community.
Andi Sims, marketing director for HOAR Program Management, said those students have grown with the facility and the group was excited about giving back to them. She said fundraising for the project began in June.
“We’re just starting with awareness, as well as fundraising for it,” she said. “We hope it sparks some local interest.”
According to a statement from the Friends of Doyle Park, the land was originally part of the Brookley Air Force Base, which employed 17,000 people before it was closed in 1969. Now, there are more than 33,000 households within a 5-mile radius of the park, said Buddy Rice, public relations and marketing manager with the Mobile Airport Authority.
“The 24-acre park and its facilities have fallen into neglect and disrepair in recent years,” Rice wrote in an email.
The group needs to raise about $1.5 million for the improvements, Sims said, which would fund athletic fields, a playground, a walking trail, a splash pad and observation pavilions to view test flights from the Airbus facility.
“We’re really excited about making a difference,” Sims said. “That’s what this is all about.”
The pavilions will provide a view of the runways used for both test flights and delivery flights for Airbus, as well as the more than 70,000 flight operations at the downtown airport annually, Rice said.
The group has one fundraiser planned, a 5K and 1-mile fun run Nov. 22, which will take place on the runways at Brookley, Sims said.
In addition to private fundraisers, Rice said the group would look into grants as well as a way to help pay for the improvements. Some of private commitments have been pledged from Hatch Mott MacDonald, which developed the master plan for the improvements, the Mobile Airport Authority, HPM, H.C. Weaver and Sons, Inc. and Hoar Program Management, which is overseeing the construction work pro bono.
This announcement follows an announcement in July from Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office of a public-private partnership leading to completions of renovations at Cooper Riverside Park. The improvements to the park, which had been closed since April, included refurbishing and reinstalling of the public art piece titled “Portal,” which was damaged by a ship during Hurricane Katrina.
Seaman’s Foundation Chairman Andrew Saunders said $130,000 was raised for the renovations at Cooper Park that included user-friendly signage, repair of a pier-side rail system, landscaping and whitewashing of sidewalks.