Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

May 13, 2013

Build it and they will come: New Summerfield sports complex beginning to take shape

Jay Neal
Jacksonville Daily Progress

NEW SUMMERFIELD — The New Summerfield Independent School District may be one of the area's smaller educational entities, but there certainly isn't anything diminutive about the school district's vision of building a complete athletic complex for its students, as well as the community, to utilize.

That dream has gradually started to become a reality as New Summerfield's new tennis facility opened up earlier this year to compliment the existing cross country course.

The centerpiece of the complex, which is located on State Highway 110 just south of the high school campus, is the track and field complex, which will include an all-weather eight-lane synthetic, maroon in color with white striping, track plus all of the required jumping pits and throw facilities.

Bleacher seating for approximately 750 people is also being constructed, along with a small press box.

The track complex, which should be completed in late June (weather permitting) will also feature lights and include a regulation size soccer field.

The final phase of the sports complex calls for the erection of a softball and baseball facility.

“We started off by building two-lighted tennis courts because we already had a tennis team, but we were forced to bus them to other places to practice and for matches,” Greg Weiss, New Summerfield ISD superintendent said in a mid-week interview. “We started off small with just the tennis courts, a concession building and a parking lot and we have grown from there.”    

Cross county layout gets rave reviews

A cross country course runs across much of the nearly-100 acres of land — only a small fraction of that is being used for the sports complex, however.

That layout hosted a couple of gatherings this school year including the district meet, with even bigger and better things already on the horizon for next year.

“We already have a commitment from the Red River Athletic Conference (NAIA) for them to come to New Summerfield for their pre-conference meet and their cross county championship meet,” New Summerfield cross country coach Kent Willis said. “We feel that this will be a real plus for the entire area because some of these visiting schools will be staying in hotels in Jacksonville and Rusk and they will be spending money locally.”

Several high school cross country meets are also booked for the 2013-14 school year as well.

“We've had a lot of compliments on our cross country course,” Weiss said. “We are looking forward to hosting even more meets next year.”

The crown jewel

A natural progression from cross country to track and field led the school district to deciding to proceed with the what should become the jewel in the crown of the complex.

Crews from Austin-based Hellas Corporation continue to work hard to complete the track facility on schedule, despite some topsy-tervy springtime weather.

Hellas has installed similar facilities at Rusk High School, Carthage High School, Longview Pine Tree and at West Rusk High, just to name a few.

“We are very pleased with the work Hellas has been doing for us,” Weiss said. “They continue to deliver on all of their promises.”

Weiss said that the new track will not only benefit New Summerfield students but the residents of New Summerfield as well.

“We wanted to add something that would better serve our students and at the same time provide something that our entire community can use,” Weiss said. “Athletic events help bind the school and the community together.”

Weiss indicated that New Summerfield hopes to offer soccer as a club sport in the fall, which will create an opportunity for many more students to participate in athletics.

The natural-grass soccer pitch will be located in the center of the track.

“Not all of our kids here play basketball,” Weiss said. “We wanted to offer a sport that would get as many kids involved in athletics as possible. Since we are going to treat soccer like a UIL sport, we could very well see an improvement academically, too.”

Weiss said that New Summerfield plans to schedule similar size schools, such as Price-Carlisle and Tenaha, who already field soccer units.

Baseball, softball on the way, too

Just west of the tennis courts and track and field complex plans call for a softball and baseball field, which should be ready for use in early January 2014. Just in time for the Lady Hornet and Hornet diamond teams to play for the very first time next spring.

“We plan to field junior varsity teams next year in softball and baseball in preparation for varsity competition in 2015,” Weiss said. “We have a beautiful tree-lined area designated for our softball and baseball fields and they will be able to share the parking lots with the tennis and track facilities. We're trying to do things economically and in a conservative manner.”  

Justin Willis has been hired to coach Hornet baseball, with high school principal Josh Faucett tentatively set to coach the Lady Hornet softballers.

Providing for the future

Weiss said that constructing the sports complex became possible when the school district had the opportunity to purchase the badly needed acreage a while back.

“We've always wanted to do more here, but we were land locked,” he explained. “A few years ago a few tracts became available and we were able to purchase them. Once we had the land secured we started thinking about the sports complex so that we could provide more opportunities for all of our kids.”

Weiss said that there is still plenty of land that will serve as a location for any future expansion that the school district should need in years to come.

“Our school board has been real supportive of this project and it is also their desire to provide more opportunities for our students,” he said. “At the same time we've been able to make some decisions that will provide for future growth.”

And what do those students think about all this?

Judging by their participation pledges for next year, they seem pretty stoked.

“Fifty percent of our kids have indicated that they plan to participate in at least one sport next year,” Weiss said. “We think that level of participation is phenomenal for a school our size.”