The newly renovated Fort Stockton High School baseball and softball fields are nearly complete and should serve as a home run not only for Panthers and Prowlers but for the Fort Stockton ISD. With final touch-ups being finished in the coming days, the hometown teams are itching to take the field and other teams will take notice when looking for neutral turf come playoff time.
“We'll have the best facility in West Texas once we get this all complete,” said FSISD Athletic Director Mike Peters while showing off the new diamonds. “We're going to be proud of it, I know the people of Fort Stockton will be proud of it. I'm sure we'll get lots of playoff games because of it and that's a good thing for us as well.”
Of course local fans will want to see their home teams in those playoffs, but by offering the fields up for postseason play for other teams and districts in the region, FSISD can earn a few extra dollars along the way. That in turn should make taxpayers happy, a return on investment of sorts.
Meanwhile, administration officials explained the funding that went into the construction and complemented the almost-finished product.
“The athletic fields were not part of the advertised bond projects [of 2013],” explained FSISD Superintendent Ralph Traynham. “They are being paid for through our general fund which does not effect the tax rate.
“It is a modern, cutting edge facility that is designed to provide the ultimate softball and baseball experience for players and fans. This fantastic complex is what our players and coaches deserve and our community expects.”
Last season, players welcomed the new artificial turf but fans and parents had to wait until this season for full renovations of the grand stands, concession area and restrooms. Now, a shiny press box and bench seating await patrons while a new concession stand sits between both fields and a locker rooms will serve home and away teams and officials — all in separate quarters.
“This is one of the major renovations we did,” Peters said. “Our seating was adequate but it wasn't good. It wasn't safe. It was hard to get up and down the stands, so we've really done a big revamp job on the bleacher situation. We've added safety railings, added a new press box, which takes place of an old wooden one. But really the bleachers are something that was a big issue in the previous complex, and they've been taken care of with this.”
New secure storage areas are also located under the stands at each field, a luxury that coach said did not exist before.
“They started construction on this probably in early fall,” he said. “The timeline was to have it ready for the first of the season, but there's lots of stuff that gets in the way with that. Sometimes in Fort Stockton we struggle because of location. People have to get all of their stuff and get it down here, and getting that done plus getting people here to work is sometimes difficult, and any kind of weather throws that off. We're about a month behind, but we're going to get it up and running before the season is complete.”
And this past Tuesday, the first softball game was indeed held at the field. Fans didn't seem to mind patches of unpoured concrete or a yet-unfinished parking area beyond the outfield, and young children seemed just fine playing hide-and-seek in all the new corners and generally running amuck as they do. But the final product cannot be far off.
“We've got new scoreboards on the way,” Peters said. “That's going to be something that's really impressive. Really I think that the whole thing is kind of updated and user friendly.
“I want everyone in Fort Stockton to be proud of our facilities. I think they will when they come out here and take a look at things. Our kids are important to us and Fort Stockton athletics is important to us, and I think the community and the district have made great strides in showing their appreciation for those things and keeping our facilities at the cutting edge.”
Next up, Panthers baseball is expected to take the field on March 23. If you build it....