A legend says goodbye: Troup County Parks and Rec holds retirement party for Bill Champion

Published 8:00 am Friday, December 15, 2023

The Troup County Parks and Rec said goodbye to a titan on Thursday as tennis/McCluskey Tennis Center director Bill Champion got a surprise retirement party full of friends, family, fun and laughter. 

“I was surprised there were this many people here,” Champion said. “This made me feel pretty special.”

Champion has served in his role with the parks and rec department for 20 years and has poured his heart and soul into his work during that span.

“What we have here at McCluskey Tennis Complex is a result of Bill’s vision and his leadership,” said Anita Holle, a member of the Troup County Parks and Recreation Commission. “Because of Bill’s hard work, we have so many people that come to play tennis here.”

At 66, Champion was finally ready to call it quits and spend more time chasing his grandson and fishing. While he is stepping back from his role with the parks and rec department, Champion will still be spending plenty of time at McCluskey Tennis Center teaching lessons.

Tennis has been a part of his life since he was in high school and there is little chance of him putting down his racket anytime soon.

This is home for Champion as he is a graduate of Harris County and ended up returning to this area to run the Callaway Gardens tennis facilities and quickly turned them into a Top-50 tennis resort. 

Through all his many accomplishments, few things have brought him as much pleasure as helping get the McCluskey Tennis Center off the ground.

“Starting this from the ground up and then seeing it flooded with kids and adults every day is what makes this job so special,” Champion said. 

He has seen the sport grow tremendously in this area since he first took the job back in 2004.

“I’ve been here for 20 years now and it’s bigger now than it’s ever been,” Champion said. “It is a weird time to be retiring.

“Tennis has always been big in LaGrange, we just needed the facilities to keep growing it and we got that.”

Now that Champion is passing the baton off to the next generation, he expects to see tennis continue to grow.

“I think they will carry on what we are doing,” Champion said. “There is definitely some room for some fresh ideas, but they will be fine. Tennis is in a good place here.”

The Troup County Parks and Rec department honored him with a plaque that will be mounted on a pedestal and a bench with his name on it, but the McCluskey Tennis Center will truly serve as the beacon of what Champion has brought to the area.

“Over the next five years after I got here, I learned that this facility exists the way it is today because of Bill Champion,” said Lance Dennis, the current director of the Troup County Parks and Rec Department. “Bill will leave a legacy for all of Troup County, and because of that the tennis center will continue to thrive without him.”