BY JAMES HARPER
Brian Jenkins, Bethune-Cookman University’s head football coach, convinced Daytona Beach residents last week to support a new school practice field in Midtown. He also told them that he’s committed to B-CU despite other job offers.
“I’ve been offered a job every year I’ve been here. It (B-CU) is not a stepping-stone. I could be coaching for an NFL team right now. I’m here until God tells me to move,” said Jenkins, who was one of the speakers from the university addressing concerns of residents about a new practice field. The Fort Lauderdale native was named B-CU’s head football coach on Dec. 21, 2009.
He also cited stability for his family as another reason he’s in no hurry to find a new job. Jenkins and his wife, Octavia, have a daughter, Briana, and a son, Brian Jr.
No Midtown board members
Jenkins spoke at an April 26 at the John H. Dickerson Center. He told residents determined not to support a practice field that it would benefit students who play sports at B-CU. The field is to be located behind the new Larry Handfield Training Center under construction on International Speedway Boulevard across from B-CU’s Performing Arts Center.
B-CU invited residents living near the proposed practice field as well as members of the Midtown Area Redevelopment Board. No members of the board attended the meeting.
Robert Merrill, an attorney representing the university, said B-CU hopes to make the same presentation before the Midtown board at its regularly scheduled June meeting.
The board’s recommendation of the project will go to Daytona Beach city commissioners who will have final approval.
Reynolds’ concerns: Noise, lighting
Daytona Beach Zone 6 Commissioner Cassandra Reynolds was at last Thursday’s meeting. In the past, Reynolds had expressed problems with outgoing B-CU President Trudie Kibbe Reed.
Reynolds said that would not be a factor on how she votes on the practice field.
“I’m not that petty,” said Reynolds, adding that she is worried about the noise from activities on the field in addition to the lighting of the property.
Reed was not at the meeting.
Coach shares vision for area
Jenkins was facing an uphill battle when he addressed the residents.
He told the residents, “I don’t think what you all are asking is out of line. Questions you have asked I have asked. We want to make sure all of your needs are met. We support what you are asking,” he remarked. “Sometimes you receive information we don’t know about.’’
Jenkins said he envisions little league football games on the practice field and said he is in negotiations with some people out of South Florida who want to do a camp at B-CU.
The training center and practice field are key to helping close the deal, he said.
Jenkins also noted that practice is key to recruiting football players to the university.
“Young men who come here want to see where they are going to train. What comes with winning has to be progress,” Jenkins explained.
He continued, “B-CU can be known nationally in every aspect.’’
More support after comments
One of the biggest opponents of the practice field was community activist Norma Bland, who admitted after Jenkins spoke that she is now willing to support construction of the practice field.
Bland said she was upset that the school was taking the residents for granted.
“Let us know what you are doing. Don’t put a brick in the ground after the fact and expect to get a permit,” Bland said.
Second Avenue Merchants Association board member Barbara Turner Hymes also was reluctant to support the practice field because of the noise.
Turner Hymes does not live near the proposed site but said she was representing people who do.
“We have to live here. Think about the people who are sleeping. We just want the truth, that’s all we are asking,” said Turner Hymes, who said she is leaning toward supporting the construction of the field.
Field would help save money
The practice field will be 100 yards – an actual playing field with synthetic turf. Jenkins said having a practice field with artificial turf will save the school $2,000 a week.
He said the B-CU spends $500 to transport players on a bus twice a week to Larry Kelly Stadium so they can practice on its artificial turf. He says B-CU also has to pay the city $500 every time the school uses the stadium to practice.
Engineer Parker Mynchenberg, who designed the practice field, said that once the field is completed all activities there must conclude no later than 11 p.m. B-CU’s band won’t be permitted to practice there. He also said that if a special circumstance or event merits additional consideration or modification of these restrictions, the Midtown board will be consulted and approval would be sought.
Mynchenberg also noted there will be two “dry” retention ponds on the property, wrought iron fences surround the property, parking behind the training center and on Jesse Street, and a screening wall on the south side of the field.
Attorney Pam Brown, project manager for the Larry Handfield Training Center and practice field told the residents, “We never intended to blindside you.”
Brown said B-CU hopes to have both open before the beginning of fall classes.