CROWN POINT | Upon hearing the words "Crown Point," sports legend Bo Jackson smiled, and that's not easy to do for a man recovering from foot surgery and a nasty case of acid reflux.
The former pro football-baseball standout was unable to attend Wednesday's news conference in Crown Point to announce the construction of the Bo Jackson Legacy Athletic Center, set to open in early 2011, and apologized profusely during a phone interview with The Times.
Bone spurs, no problem. But Jackson was taking a powerful medication for his acid reflux, and one of the side effects was constant hiccuping. That, and wife Linda refusing to let him leave the house.
"She gave me that look like 'I will take a baseball bat and whack you upside your head,' so I didn't ask any more," he chuckled.
Crown Point first came into the picture in early June after Mayor Dave Uran and representatives from the city Parks Department and youth sports commission saw the Web site for Jackson's Lockport facility while researching air-supported fabric structures -- domes -- on the Internet. They toured the Lockport site and found they shared the same vision regarding youth sports.
Jackson said he was won over by the city and its leaders during a visit there last summer.
"I met the mayor, the head football coach (Chip Pettit), and I got a tour of the stadium, the locker rooms, the fieldhouse. I told them: 'You've got a high school team that has a facility that rivals -- no, that's better -- than those at 85 percent of Division I colleges. You are showing everybody that you care about your kids.'
"It is outstanding."
Strong community involvement and parental support also scored heavily with the 47-year-old father of three.
"That shows me right there that the people of Crown Point are behind their kids," Jackson said. "If more people could follow Crown Point, as far as bettering the schools and the athletic departments ... everybody knows most of your revenue is going to be generated through that brand-new facility you've got there to help out the classrooms, to help out the libraries, the labs, the salaries of the teachers.
"And you all are right on point when it comes to that."
Bo was the eighth of 10 children raised by a very demanding mother. His Bo Jackson Legacy Athletic Center stresses character, academics and athletic development -- in that order.
"The city is beautiful and everybody is doing what they need to. That's the bottom line," said the longtime face of Nike sports. "When this facility opens, it's going to be the crown jewel.
"They aren't going to call it Crown Point. They're going to call it 'The Crown Jewel', and I guarantee you other cities are going to try to follow your lead there."
Bo Jackson's late mother continues to provide inspiration for the famous multisport star. Read Al Hamnik's column in Sports.