A 35 team regional softball tournament put Gulfport's new ballfields through their first big test. "Oh I was ready," head groundskeeper Ken Edwards said. "I've been working these fields for about a year now. So it was like showtime."
Edwards had crews working on the infield. He said that after almost 80 games on four fields in one weekend, the dirt had some wear and tear. "Growing pains" is the phrase Edwards used to describe the infield situation. "You know, brand new fields. We have a little work to do on the infields. Other than that, we'll be one of the finest facilities in the southeast no doubt."
In the outfields, it was hard to tell 700 softball players shagged flies around the green grass. "It looks pretty good," assistant groundskeeper Tony McCaffrey said. "It didn't tear up that bad."
The softball fields and an adjacent soccer complex are part of phase one of Gulfport's sportsplex. City leaders admit work on these fields ended up way behind schedule. That's why Gulfport Leisure Services director George DeCoux said, "Just seeing people play out here was quite a thrill for me, believe me."
Gulfport has two more expansion projects planned for the sportsplex. In phase two, more softball and soccer fields will be built. And tennis courts will added. In phase three, the city will build an indoor sports center.
The other news about the sportsplex is who may move there. There's a chance, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and the rest of the U-S Women's National Soccer team may train at Gulfport's new sports complex. WLOX News has learned that a national team representative recently visited Gulfport and toured the new soccer fields.
Any deal between the women's soccer team and Gulfport would be worked out by Southeastern Sports Management. Poe Simms represents the management team. He didn't have anything to say about the soccer team.
He did talk about the tournament action scheduled for the sportsplex. Already 13 softball and baseball tournaments have plans to use the facility between now and mid-summer. "It's going to be very busy," Simms said. "But that's what we're looking forward to. This is just going to be a great opportunity for the city of Gulfport, for the community as a whole and for our organization also. So we're excited."
Gulfport hired the Southeastern Sports Management group to run its seven million dollar sports complex and schedule weekend tournaments.