by Matt Wright
After years of desperate need for more athletic fields, the town of Lakeland is on the verge of having more space for children and adults to play.
Two different sports facilities will offer 7 new fields for recreation and competitive sports such as soccer, tackle football, flag football and potentially even lacrosse in town and at school. The larger of the two facilities is built by the Lakeland School System on the east side of the Lakeland Prep campus. An agreement with the Lakeland Parks and Recreation Department will allow Lakeland recreational teams to use the grounds for a variety of sports throughout the year. The installation will consist of 5 flat fields, 4 of which will be illuminated. It will also have a parking lot and a toilet building and concession stands.
According to Lakeland Superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell, three of the courts will measure 110 meters by 65 meters, and the other two will be larger and measure 110 meters by 70 meters. Dr Horrell says they expect the facility to be ready for use by August 1, 2021. Pat O’Mara, director of parks and recreation at Lakeland, said football and soccer might start training on the town hall grounds in the summer for preseason practices, but he fully expects those teams to train and play at the Lakeland prep facility in August. Having lights in the facility will be a big improvement for the Lakeland crews since the Town Hall fields would use construction lights to try and light up the fields in October and November.
The school will also use the facility in different ways and, according to Dr Horrell, it will provide a solution to a variety of issues. Dr Horrell said: “We know from our own experience and that of other schools that access to sports fields will be requested. This will become especially important when we have middle school and high school teams training, training and playing games in the same season. He also added that the pitches can be used for other reasons such as fundraising and eventual tournaments stating: “Having five pitches also allows great fundraising capabilities for teams or clubs. reminder, because we could organize tournaments in a variety of sports. “
The second facility, which will begin construction this summer, is the highly anticipated Lakeland Sports Complex and Recreation Park located on Memphis-Arlington Road. This facility is located on 100 city-owned acres and has undergone several interpretations after encountering wetland issues.
The city will build Phase 1 of the park this summer and officials believe Phase 1 will be completed by September 2021. This project is funded by capital funds from the city budget, as well as a grant of 500,000. $ from the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation which was acquired under former Mayor Wyatt Bunker. According to Mr. O’Mara, Phase 1 will consist of two flat multi-sport fields of approximately 360 feet x 170 feet. Unfortunately, there will be no light on these fields at this time as there is currently no electricity available on the property. Future phases hope to include power and lights.
Asked what the rest of the park will include, Mr. O’Mara said, “The Town of Lakeland is currently working with Barge Design Solutions to revise the master plan for the Lakeland Sports Complex and Recreation Park. In 2018, when wetlands were identified on the site, the phase 1 plan was redesigned, and the master plan created in 2017 became obsolete. We anticipate that the new master plan for this site will be submitted to the Parks and Recreation / Natural Resources (PRB) Board for recommendations over the summer and to the Council of Commissioners shortly after the PRB approves it. The future phasing of the sports complex will be determined once the site master plan process is complete.
One topic that comes up regularly is the issue of baseball and softball fields for the Lakeland recreational teams. Mr O’Mara said that while the two facilities under construction do not include baseball or softball fields, it is certainly something the city is studying and hopes to address in a future phase of the park.