More than $5 million worth of additions and renovations for the Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station essentially are complete, increasing the number of parking spaces and growing the number of artificial turf fields to four and the overall number of athletic fields to 18, including five softball fields.
The College Station City Council approved the renewal plan in December 2015 and it was funded through hotel occupancy taxes, sometimes referred to as hotel/motel tax money — paid by people who stay in College Station hotels or motels.
“The most recent phase is two artificial turf fields, which gives us a total of four,” said David Schmitz, director of Parks and Recreation for College Station. He said the additional fields, which were completed in May, already have played host to tournaments, including the USA Ultimate Division III National Championships on May 18-19.
Veterans Park was acquired in 1999, according to the city’s website, and is about 150 acres. Veterans Park will host the annual Adidas Texas 7-on-7 Championships high school football tournament at the end of this month.
“They’ll help us with the upcoming summer tournaments out there, enabling us to expand,” Schmitz said. “Those fields are to help us bring in tournaments like that and to keep them here.”
Schmitz said the project “was not just the fields,” and included numerous new parking spaces, shade structures and benches, as well as drainage work. It also included the refurbishing and reopening of the University Drive entrance, one of two entrances to the complex.
“It’s an incredible facility, and it’s a facility that College Station is proud of — and it gets a lot of use,” Schmitz said. “Especially during the summer, we program as much as we can to get the tourists here and enjoying the city at a time of year when school isn’t in session and the hotels and stores are wanting business.”
“In the meantime, when we’re not holding tournaments on them, the locals get to use them for their leagues and other play. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Schmitz said.
The facility also includes nine grass fields and five softball fields, the latter of which have been, and will be, used for events this spring and summer.
“There’s a lot of open play on those fields,” he said.
Dominique Powell, the director of sports and events for Experience Bryan-College Station, praised the facility and the city’s investment in Veterans Park in an interview last week.
“When you get past that 12-field threshold, it opens up the facility to a national scale for national championships and events,” Powell said, citing the May ultimate frisbee national championship tournament. He also said that additional fields make it easier to host events that run longer than a weekend.
“The additions also provide that extra comfort — the additional parking, shade structures and benches, close bathrooms and places for kids to hang out are added events when we are trying to recruit events to come to the area,” Powell said.
Commenting on the impact of the increased number of fields for local residents, Powell said that it provides opportunities not only for leagues and pick-up games, but also for local athletes in high-level competitions.
“It opens up opportunities for our local athletes to compete in these events,” Powell said. “They get to compete right in their backyard against top-10 talent in the nation.”