Sports Facilities: Every Town Wants Their Field of Dreams | Part 2 of 2
Texas Construction News from Virtual Builders Exchange
The Depot: a minor league baseball stadium now under construction in Cleburne, Texas
by Edmond Ortiz
Small Town and Semi-Pro
On a professional level, small Texas cities such as Edinburg and Cleburne are committing big bucks toward their new sports facilities.
Construction began in February 2015 on Bert Ogden Arena on a 40-acre tract in Edinburg. The $68 million, 189,000-square-foot arena, slated to open this fall, will have more than 8,500 seats and 2,400 parking spaces. It’s set to be the Valley’s biggest entertainment venue.
It will replace State Farm Arena in Hidalgo as home of the RGV Vipers, a Houston Rockets farm club. The Vipers’ majority owner is Alonzo Cantu, a renowned developer and president of McAllen-based Cantu Construction & Development Co.
Cantu kicked in $33 million toward the project, with the rest of the money coming from tax increment reinvestment zone bonds and local economic development corporation sales tax revenue. The arena is being built along the Interstate 69 corridor in Edinburg, which has become a hot bed of commercial development.
In addition to the Vipers, Bert Ogden Arena will host home games for the Vaqueros, the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley men's basketball program.
Head coach Lew Hill told local reporters last year that he hopes the new arena will open up the basketball program to a higher caliber of collegiate competition, and attract high school prospects who will consider playing for the Vaqueros.
The arena will be multi-functional, said Vipers President Bert Garcia. He explained the new arena comes partially from the Vipers organization wanting to be closer to McAllen, more centralized in the Valley.
“It’d be an easier commute for our clients. The region has been expanding,” Garcia said. “We also thought a bigger building could not only host basketball games, but concerts and other events, and have state-of-the-art items like a videoboard and WiFi. We felt it was the right time.”
Garcia said the community is excited and anxious about the project, adding that many residents have been wanting “something like this in the center of the Valley for so long.”
In Cleburne, The Depot at Cleburne Station baseball stadium will open in April. The new home of the Cleburne Railroaders of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball took $20.7 million to build and seats 5,000.
The Depot project was thought out as a complement to Cleburne Station, a new private investment project that will offer new dining and retail to residents and visitors.
City Manager Steve Polasek said with The Depot situated less than a 20-minute drive from downtown Fort Worth, the stadium and surrounding planned development will be a major economic catalyst for Cleburne, a town of 30,000.
“People here are optimistic and excited about the future of Cleburne,” he added. “We’re bringing baseball back to Cleburne, and it’s coming to a part of the Metroplex that is seeing more growth.”
While The Depot will primarily host independent minor league baseball, it will be available for concerts and other events year-round. Polasek said the Railroaders organization will seek to book collegiate and high school competition as well.
Childress Engineers started site work, with Hunt Construction Group, taking on the role of design-build contractors. Voters approved $25 million in bonds to fund the stadium. The baseball franchise will manage the facility.
You’re Never Too Young
Sports television media devotes the lion’s share of its resources to professional leagues and their regional franchises. But George Block, a swim coach and San Antonio Sports board member, knows that love of sports starts small, at an early age and through local support.
“Investing in youth sports is good for kids and for sports tourism,” Block said. “Sports tourism has a big impact on the economy. Parents take their kids every weekend or every day, somewhere, to see sports and to participate.”
Smaller venues, such as San Antonio’s STAR Soccer Complex near Toyota Field attracts many youth sports activities.
The Dallas Cowboys’ home is the 100,000-seat AT&T Stadium in Arlington. However, Block noted the city of Arlington did a study that revealed its other sports facilities performed just as well because of the strength of local youth sports organizations.
“Youth sports is a growth market because your kids have to play someplace,” Block said.
Pflugerville, north of Austin, began Phase 1 on 1849 Park in November. The $10 million sports complex will eventually have six multi-purpose fields for lacrosse, rugby and soccer, three football fields, a playground, parking and restrooms. Patin Construction Co. was awarded a $3 million contract.
James Hemenes, the city’s parks and recreation director, noted an increased demand from residents. Voters included it in a 2014 general obligation bond package. That community demand grew into broader public support to develop the 323-acre parkland.
City officials approved a master plan last summer. The cost to realize the plan is $62 million, so the park will be built out in phases.
At maturity, 1849 Park is envisioned to include a dog park, a destination playground and splash pad, a 2,000-seat amphitheater, large group pavilion, sand volleyball, basketball, archery, a history area incorporated with an existing cemetery, open grass play areas, outdoor learning, camping and programmable outdoor space.
“The first phase will include three multi-purpose practice ‘pods,’ three football fields, restrooms and playgrounds for each area, parking and associated utilities,” Jimenes said. The first phase of development, including cost of acquiring the land, is $15 million.
According to Hemenes, residents have been using soccer and baseball facilities that were built in the 1990s. The Pflugerville Independent School District has been leasing use of the baseball facility.
“They met the needs of our community, (but) we were half the size that we are today. The development of sports fields has not kept up with the growth of the community. All that is being developed in the first phase will be at capacity once it opens,” Hemenes said, adding the city hopes for the public to start play there in spring 2018.
Hemenes said while it will take years for 1849 Park to be built out, Pflugerville residents are eager to take on new recreational opportunities there.
“The area youth sports providers are excited that there will be more space and other types of park users are excited about what future phases will bring,” he added.
Adolfo Pesquera is a veteran news journalist. He has previously worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States. He is a communications graduate of the University of Texas-PanAmerican.
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