By John Mullen
February 4, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) – Robert Stuart has been involved in city athletics through the Orange Beach Sports Association for 25 years.
“I’ve got three sons and I’ve had a child in Gulf Shores High School since the doors opened,” Stuart said. “My youngest is a senior this year.”
And he looks to stay involved for many years to come.
“My excitement is that I’ve got two grandsons, one that’s four and one that’s eight or nine months,” Stuart said. “God willing I’m going to be involved with this a long time. I’m as excited as if my kids were getting ready to start.”
There’s lots of excitement in Orange Beach about everything from planned roadway improvements, bridges and new city facilities in the works. Perhaps generating the most excitement is the coming new Orange Beach High School and middle school on Canal Road.
“Right now, I think there’s excitement but once they start seeing walls and seeing kids start having classes I think it’s just going to be one of the best things to ever happen to Orange Beach,” Stuart said.
Stuart plans to stay involved through the revamping of the sports association into the Mako Arts, Academics and Athletic Club. Traditionally, the group’s biggest fundraiser, the Orange Beach Seafood Festival returns Feb. 23 at The Wharf. On Feb. 9 the club will have its inaugural Basketball Jamboree with a three-on-three tournament, free throw contest and a progressive shot challenge with a chance at a $25,000 prize.
“The original board for the sports association you had to have like 17 board members,” Stuart said. “We’re going to drop that to seven to nine and have an arts and band representative, a female sports representative, a male sports representative and so on. And a fundraising person. We’re going to do a complete restructure.
“Our goal is if there is a need at the school and it meets the criteria then we support it.”
A big boost to the booster club will come from the City of Orange Beach.
“We’re going to go out and seek sponsors,” Stuart said. “Right now, the city has pledged to match any sponsor funds that we go out and get. If we go out and get $100,000 the city’s going to match that $100,000. We’ve met with some of the larger business leaders in Orange Beach and kind of letting them know where we’re going.”
Mayor Tony Kennon said he believes the council will support the matching program and he thinks it will help generate donations.
“That Is a suggestion that I have made and I’m hoping the council will go along with it,” Kennon said. “But I do believe if we provide a match it provides an incentive for the community to get involved, corporate sponsors to get involved.”
The city has been involved in the whole school project from the beginning from donating the land for the school to funding about 84 percent of an $8.6 million performing arts center.
“I can’t say enough about how much the city is committing to the school and to the kids of Orange Beach,” Stuart said. “It’s going to be a real, real nice school and facility. The commitment from the city with the more than $7 million they just approved for the performing arts center and they’re going to improve the high school baseball fields out at the Sportsplex to make them more in compliance with other fields in the area. And the football stadium that will come.”
Stuart said it’s yet to be determined if the Sportsplex stadium will be used for the school’s football and other athletic teams but a stadium is in the future plan for the campus.
“It’s going to be right there in proximity with the school right where Public Works is now,” he said. “I haven’t heard any commitment on a date for the football field but I know that it is in the plans.”
Besides seeking sponsors to help fund the group Stuart says they need to finalize the makeup of the board. Currently, he, Tim Klatt, Matt Fetner and Ryan Long are serving as board members.
Kennon says he hopes the new club can be tied to community service projects for the students who benefit from the fundraisers.
“I’ve also asked that we require all the students in extracurricular activities that will be participating in the flow of any of that money they will perform community service so many days a year,” Kennon said. “They may spend a whole day washing police cars or painting somebody’s house or whatever. I think they need to work for their share of the money and not just have it handed to them.”