As much as we go on and on about Clarksville, there actually is a more dysfunctional city right up the road called Hopkinsville. They’ve gone through decades of mismanagement that has led to them being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a closer look.
Years of Blown Chances
Did you know that Hopkinsville and Clarksville used to have the same population? Check the census numbers out…
The jumps in 1990, 2000, and 2010 in Clarksville compared to Hopkinsville are most alarming. Between 1980 and 2010 Hopkinsville gained 4,259 citizens. During that same time, Clarksville gained 83,602! What could cause this to happen? Having spoke to many people that live in Hoptown and Clarksville, there are a ton of excuses that get thrown around. At the same time, there are many specific examples people have given me where Hopkinsville has shot itself in the foot. Their refusal to accept change has led to their current state of stagnation. For part one of our story today let’s look at one explanation:
Old Money Prevents New Money
When people try to explain why Hopkinsville has only grown about 15% over the last 30 years, this is the number one reason I hear. Although it sounds conspiratorial, I keep hearing tales of new industries and businesses being kept out of town. The first examples I’m given are from the 80’s and 90’s, when old downtown businesses like Cayce-Yost had a say with the city council when it came to who could do what.
Cayce-Yost was a 2-floor building with outdated (even for the 80’s) merchandise, equipment, and ideas about retail located in scary Downtown Hopkinsville. As the Wal-Mart and K-Mart continued to flourish, downtown was dying. So in the early 90’s when Wal-Mart wanted to update their smaller store into a SuperCenter, old downtown pushed back. Did they upgrade their old buildings and inventory? No, they didn’t want to compete, because up to this point they never had.
The owners of old businesses fought and canoodled with city officials to get the Wal-Mart Supercenter rejected. The location for a SuperCenter was refused several more times, until they finally had to build outside of the main strip on Ft. Campbell Blvd. Not too long after, all the outdated and irrelevant retailers downtown disappeared. Instead of changing with the times, they tried to keep progress out of town.
By the way, let’s not mourn their loss in this example. “Mom and Pop” stores sound whimsical and sentimental, but in this case the stores were old, smelled like grandpa farts, overpriced, out of the way, and always closed when you needed them the most. You often hear that a store “can’t compete”, but usually it’s that they refuse to change. Hopkinsville might just be the capital city of “Refuse-to-change”-land.
There’s other examples I’ve been given. Hopkinsville (finally) got a Lowes’ a few years ago, after what seemed like ages. I’ve heard that they were originally going to get a Home Depot, until they were asked who did their appliance repairs. When it was found out that Home Depot did their own repairs, they were turned down, as it would have created competition for a local appliance repair shop. Lowes’ outsources their repairs…so they were allowed to build.
But the BEST (or worst) example of old money and old business killing growth is the death of a proposed shopping center on 41A several years ago. You can still see the proposed site if you drive a couple of miles past the Pennyrile Parkway, although an old “Coming Soon” sign has since been removed. Basically, a local investor was planning to open a full-on plaza, complete with a shopping center, a multi-screen theater, and a modernized bowling alley. Hopkinsville was (and still is) desperately in need of all three of these things, but none of it came to pass. The theater in Hopkinsville is a sad five screen affair, existing only because it’s the only one in town. But that’s nothing compared to…
…Indian Hills Bowl, Hoptown’s only craphouse bowling alley. It’s been around for decades, and it’s also been said that it was the number one reason the center didn’t happen. When the proposed bowling alley was announced, there was allegedly a push by many old-timers with vested interest in Indian Hills Bowl to keep it from being built. Whatever backdoor politics ensued, ultimately the new bowling alley was cancelled, and with it the dreams of many local bowlers of having a nice place to bowl.
Seriously, have you seen Indian Hills Bowl? It’s been closed countless times due to roof leaks. Most of the lanes are so warped that it feels like you’re bowling in Wonderland and the ball is being magically moved by the Cheshire Cat. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but I’ve been told that they still don’t have automated scoring…like every other successful bowling alley in Clarksville (or most of the modern world). You still use pencil and paper–hell, I’m surprised they don’t have midgets resetting pins in the back. The entire building is an embarassing reminder of Hopkinsville’s inability to move forward. Also, it’s a typical example of how consumers that feel screwed over will find an alternative. Several Hoptown residents I know travel all the way to Clarksville to bowl at the Pinnacle, just to avoid the flea market quality of Indian Hills Bowl.
You know something…Ebonite, a well-known bowling ball manufacturer, has a factory in Hopkinsville. How embarassing must it be for Indian Hills Bowl to be Hoptown’s representative for the sport?
Well, you can guess how the plaza story ended, especially if you drive by the proposed lot. The investor went so far as to lay down the needed utilities! It was on the way… and then he backed out when the city continually refused to let him build. The excessive good old boy politics and back-scratching (I like to call it “nut-licking”) led to him saying “hell with it”. No new stores, no new theater, and no new bowling alley. Way to go Hoptown.
There are many other examples of old money and outdated thinking that encompass Hopkinsville’s history, but we’ll let you hunt down those stories yourself…
Let me add a funny counterpoint about keeping out successful ideas. Hoptown didn’t want an entertainment and shopping complex that would have kept money in town and potentially attract out of towners (from Ft. Campbell, Oak Grove, Todd/Trigg county). But they did think it was a great idea to build a sloppy, half-assed water park? The “Tie Breaker Park Family Aquatic Center” (great name), is a dinky 2-slide watering hole with a lazy river that’s been losing money before they ever laid the first brick.
If you thought people in Clarksville didn’t want a marina, that’s nothing compared to how few people wanted this waste of space. They’re open a whopping 3.5 months a year, and have only broke even due to $125,000 annual subsidies. It’s like the Mount Rushmore of failure–a reflection of backwards thinking.
I think ClarksvilleWTF may need to do a hands-on visit, because I can’t believe this place still exists…
With all of these examples, it’s no wonder that the population has barely trickled up. Meanwhile, most of the young people that haven’t been brainwashed into sticking around have trickled out. Hopkinsville’s future is scary…and that’s what we’ll take a look at next time in part two of Sick, Sad, Hoptown.