Capital of Dreams

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

The Bible states that “without a vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).   I think you can easily conclude the verse also means that when people have a vision, they have the potential to be productive, accomplish much and be successful.

I have lived in Montgomery, the “Capital of Dreams,” for 44 years.  I’ve seen the development of our down town area as a result of the vision of many people.  The down town area is being revitalized and is becoming an attractive destination place for people who want to experience the history, hospitality and quality of life enjoyed here in Montgomery.  The new venues for sporting events also are bringing thousands of people here.  People are referring to Montgomery as the “Sports Capital of Alabama.” 

Mayor Todd Strange had a vision a few years ago of developing athletic venues so Montgomery could host more teams, competitions and events.  He created the Central Alabama Sports Commission.  I grew up with Ken Blankenship who was hired as the first Executive Director.  At his retirement, John Williams succeed him.  My good friend Karl Stegall was elected President of this group, and I was invited to serve on the Commission.  How we got two preachers on one commission is a mystery to me!  The Commission is composed of the mayors of the River Region cities and a lot of visionary people in business, education, athletics, etc.  This group began to dream.

One of the first parts of that dream was to renovate Cramton Bowl and build a multiplex building.  This venture cost millions of dollars, but dreams always require a risk and come with a price tag.  People bought into the vision of Mayor Strange and the Sports Commission, and both of these have now been completed. 

A lot of people offered names for the new multiplex building.  I suggested that we plant some garden vegetables in front of it, and since it is a completely square building, and located on Madison Avenue, I thought it should be named “Montgomery’s Madison Square Garden.”  My idea didn’t go very far!

The Multiplex is a huge venue.  In 2015, over 125,000 people utilized it for volleyball, basketball, and many other events.  I attended the World Horse Shoe Tossing Tournament there which brought in over a thousand “pitchers” from around the world.  Along with the Multiplex, there have been upgrades to the tennis, volleyball, golf, soccer, etc., venues which brings in thousands of new people.  Just the soccer complex had over 600,000 participants in 2015!  That’s a “slam dunk of a success!”

Vision became reality.  With the renovation of Cramton Bowl and the Multiplex, people are beginning to see what the dreamers saw a few years ago.  It began with a college all-star game; then came the Camellia Bowl in 2015 which was highly successful.  ESPN carried the Bowl game. 

At our October commission meeting, it was announced that we would partner with ESPN to host the Montgomery Kick-Off Classic for college football on August 26, 2016.  Jacksonville State University will play the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga – two great football programs – as the first game of the 2017 season, and it will be carried nationwide on ESPN.  Wow!  That’s a dream that has become a reality.

I believe our city visionaries must have read the Prophet Joel who said, “I want your young men to dream dreams and your old men to see visions” (Joel 2:28).  I’m proud and blessed to be a part of the Capital of Dreams. 

However, I think it’s more important to catch a vision for what God has for His work.  For me it begs the question – what am I doing to enhance God’s vision in my life, my work, and my contribution to the Kingdom of God.  What vision is God putting in your mind?  Are you willing to act upon it?

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