GEORGETOWN – A newly renovated football stadium that is the pride of Jacksonville residents has taken top honors at the 2019 Texas Downtown Association Presidents Awards Program.
The Historic Tomato Bowl was named winner of the Best Public Improvement Design Category for a city below a 50,0000 population during an Oct. 30 awards gala held as apart of the 2019 Texas Downtown Conference in Georgetown.
“We were just thrilled we actually won,” said JISD Superintendent Dr. Chad Kelly, explaining that the Jacksonville project was one of two semi-finalists. “For both (city and school district) it was an honor, and we love the fact that the Tomato Bowl is the center of downtown – to be awarded for that reason is really awesome for us. We kept true to the downtown design, and keeping the wall was the number one reason we got (the award).”
Kelly and a contingent from Jacksonville attended the Georgetown gala, including Jacksonville Mayor Randy Gorham; JISD Associate Superintendent Brad Stewart; Tina Stewart; Jacksonville City Manager Greg Smith; JEDCO administrative assistant Sherri McDonald; and JISD Public Relations Director Grace Traylor.
“I think it was really great that our City of Jacksonville, and especially the Jacksonville ISD could showcase their newly renovated Tomato Bowl to everybody in the State of Texas,” Gorham said. “We got some great state-wide exposure for winning that award.”
Local Chamber of Commerce board chairman Tom Trimble called it “an absolute thrill” to nab the honor.
“It's fantastic – it was a blessing for Chad and his crew. They have done an amazing job on the Tomato Bowl,” he said. “It's a historic place, and for them to do what it did, is truly amazing.”
Trimble also credited the citizens of Jacksonville, who passed a $21 million bond election in 2017 that would, in part, pay for renovation of the facility, located in the city's downtown district.
“They decided it was something they wanted – 'we want to keep the Tomato Bowl as feature for Jacksonville' – and the citizens stepped up,” he said. “Hats to off to the citizens for voting for it, for them using the money wisely. What an amazing construction project that was completed!”
Kelly said he felt the community came together for the project from the beginning, back to when he first took over reins as superintendent several years ago.
“When I got here, a group of citizens came to me and asked, 'What can we do to improve the Tomato Bowl?'” he recalled, saying that after explaining “what would happen to even do a little bit of renovation, they really got behind it, and the bond had an 80 percent passing rate. The community knew we had to do something to save Tomato Bowl, and we worked with the taxpayers (to see the project through).”
According to the Jacksonville ISD website, it is “one of the last remaining downtown stadiums in Texas.
“Built during 1930's through the Works Progress Administration Program, the entire stadium is surrounded by walls built with area (iron ore) rock and local labor. She is home to Fightin' Indian football and soccer teams, and boast of many players who spent Friday nights inside her rock walls that have continued their careers in college and in professional level sports,” the site noted.
In 2018 – months after the passage of the bond proposal – work began on updating the stadium, and in May2019, it re-opened to rave reviews: “The interior (inside the walls) and the rock facade were saved, but an entirely new state-of-the-art stadium was built within the historic walls,” the site stated, also noting that the Tomato Bowl is a Texas Football Stadium Hall of Fame honoree.
Kelly noted that other school districts already are contracting with JISD to use the historic stadium for play-off games for their football teams “want to play here because of our facility.”
As folks travel to Jacksonville for these games, they will be investing money via fuel, food and and possibly even overnight stays, which creates a win-win situation for the City of Jacksonville, he added.
A total of 119 entries from communities across the state were submitted in 11 different categories this year. Due to the number of entries, the entries were divided up into two categories – Design and Achievement – with separate judging panels for each group.
The judges for design entries were: Barbara Brannon, Texas Heritage Plains Trail; Rachel Farrington, Cobalt Development; Ellis Mumford-Russell, Ogee; Dick Ryan, retired architect; and Riley Triggs, City of Austin.
The Texas Downtown Association was established in 1985 to connect and serve communities that are committed to downtown vitality, the release noted. It is an independent, statewide nonprofit that represents cities and towns of all sizes, economic development corporations, chambers of commerce, local organizations, small businesses, and individuals.
TDA sponsors the annual program to recognize outstanding projects, places and people of Texas. For more information about the President’s Awards or other programs of the Texas Downtown Association, please visit www.texasdowntown.org.