City Faces Threats to Change East Side Development & Economics
“I have a dream, that one day, when people will come to the City of San Antonio, they will be able to experience an African American culture to include a restaurant on the River Walk, a museum that captures our history, visit a well-maintained park named after Martin Luther King, Jr., (with Hemisfair type of architectural enhancements to make the park inviting and educational) and be within close proximity to the community led sports and entertainment at the Wheatley Sports & Entertainment Complex... I have a Dream!” - SA Observer
San Antonio, TX - The city of San Antonio is within 30+ days of the largest march celebrating the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One man plans to conduct a counter march demonstrating his desires to see the park named after MLK be an international attraction creating new economic development and activity unlike no other time in the history of San Antonio.
Otis Thompson wants to do what is “right for the people of the East side community. Tourist spend over $14 Billion each year in SA. We don't capture any of those dollars because we don't have a TOURIST destination. MLK Park is perfect!!!”
He is a community activist with many titles and responsibilities. You may have seen Mr. Thompson protesting in front of HEB on Houston Street as the Chief Elder to the Melanin Society. He has worn rope nooses around his neck and carried signs to show the murders and disrespect of Black people across the nation. His style of protest is not common; however, Thompson remains confident in his truth.
History is not always kind to those who wage protest. One year before Dr. King was assassinated, a Gallup poll showed 67% of Americans thought his civil rights protest was not the right approach. Today our nation celebrates Dr. King’s life, giving him honor for initiating the change he wanted to see from his country.
San Antonio history cites Rev R.A. Callies leading smaller marches and collecting spare change from people in coffee cans, to see his vision of the City of San Antonio to celebrate the life of Dr. King each year.
Some say publicly and silently, Thompson is wasting his time.
Thompson’s campaign is to have the City of San Antonio change the end location of the largest MLK March in the world to MLK Park. Thompson says, “true investment in MLK Park and finishing and renaming of the Wheatley Sports Complex, will bring true economic opportunity for the East Side.” He says, “We have all the makings of a tourist destination.”
Thompson texted me saying, “LET US add ENTERTAINMENT to the name of the Wheatley Heights Sports Complex. The signage out front to reflect the change. LET US refer to it as the Wheatley Heights Sports & Entertainment Complex. LET US begin now to encourage concert promoters to utilize the WHS&EC.”
On Google reviews, the MLK Park is rated a dismal 3.7 out of 5 stars and the Wheatley Heights Sports Complex is rated 4.7 out of 5 stars, with very good reviews.
MLK Park’s worst review out of 53 reviews was by “Nunya B.” The person says, “I do not recommend this park or city if you're a human with ethics and morality. Martin Luther King would be saddened and disgusted by this namesake park, this city and citizens.”
Unfortunately, the Wheatley Heights Sports Complex is not very well known according to a cross section of the Google reviewers. “It is a hidden secret” one reviewer writes.
On a tour of the Wheatley with Thompson, he points out the flaws with the project. There are design details of the Wheatley Heights Sports Complex, that are not physically complete and left for more investment. Thompson says, “there is meaningful work to do.” Thompson provides tours to all people who would like to join him in the dream of changing the MLK park. Thompson has provided tours of the MLK Park and Wheatley Sports Complex to include church leaders, chamber leaders, business leaders and both past and present District 2 City Councilmen.
Thompson cannot be faulted with sharing his vision. He is also being seen on the weekend maintaining the park as a volunteer cutting the very lawn. Thompson’s advocacy does take on criticism as his ideas have been labelled “radical”, “crazy”, and more.
According to Thompson, the city’s opposition comes from the leadership of the MLK Commission and the City of San Antonio’s Transportation and Capital Improvement (TCI) Department. Thompson says “the streets were narrowed and end abruptly in our community.” On my tour he says, “the roads are not planned for this area to experience any growth or real utilization.”
The MLK Commissioner Nate Davis says, I am willing and always have been willing to give Otis a platform to pitch his ideas. The police concerns with providing safety is key to the decision to where we end the march today. The decision was made before I became commissioner. Now, I do like his vision to invest more into the MLK Park and finish the Wheatley. Ideally the march should end in MLK. Today logistically is not possible. I would love to see the plans to make this happen.”
He texted me again, “ALERT: The GRAND BLVD. (MLK Prkwy) which was to connect MLK Dr. & E. Houston St. through MLK Park) was intentionally diverted by TCI. The roadway is merely an extension of the hike & bike trail - and not a direct path to E. Houston St & the stadium. Elder Thompson. Break the SPELL. (210) 226-3950.The roadway veers to the left beyond the MLK Prkwy bridge towards the hike & bike trial and NOT in the direction of E. Houston St. and the stadium. (The future route of the MLK March.)”
Thompson believes if the city with the nation’s largest MLK March can rally 300,000+ people to participate, “shouldn’t the city’s one public park named after the slain civil rights leader be fully developed and available to attract tourist year-round versus just one day of the year?” “Could the march raise money and donate it to a cause that is worthwhile and sustaining?”
If Thompson is right, the MLK brand could make this section of the city an economic hub of activity and enable local businesses a unique opportunity to participate in the growth.
Thompson’s plan starts the march at the Pittman Sullivan and would end at the MLK Park. The Wheatley Sports Complex could be used in tandem to produce a world class experience.
Thompson questions why the leaders of the march would not want to see change or the development of another park comparable to the north side’s Hardberger Park. One area resident said, “the city councilman should treat this like an Olympic site. Work with the ideas presented and prepare to unveil the new and improved location in 2020. If Councilman Cruz works politically to invest in our community, this might be his politically legacy. And for Mr. Thompson, he can be satisfied that his great idea was heard.”
On December 6, a petition was published on gopetition.com to rally the community to adopt many aspects of his protest. Thompson continues to email City Manager Sheryl Sculley with his protest updates.
Thompson’s last text message says,
“LET US march to MLK Park 2018 to the 5,000 seat Wheatley Hts. Sports Complex. (30-years marching the WRONG direction.)
WHEN: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 11:00 a.m. / WHERE: 1700 MLK Dr./Meerscheidt Street Intersection (Assemble St. Philip's College) / The Learned Chief Elder Otis Thompson /MELANIN SOCIETY USA. Break the SPELL.
Please RSVP @ (210) 226-3050. Abracadabra.