Before FNC Park Director Brad Freeman gets ambushed at the start of April, he’s had a few weeks to prepare for the busy run of tournaments. Soccer’s big weekend is this Saturday and Sunday, but there has been plenty to keep Freeman and his crew busy at the complex since the end of February.
March has always been the launching point to a busy next few months at FNC Park. Outside of Oxford Park Commission games for youth soccer, softball and baseball, Freeman, Clay Brownlee, the assistant director at FNC Park, and the best field maintenance crew around are busy hosting a number of tournaments in all three sports.
There was a fast pitch softball tournament for high school teams at the start of March. Another 30 softball teams visited on a weekend in the middle of the month. The weekend that ended spring break brought in a baseball tournament with over 60 teams while over 70 baseball teams competed in an event just a week ago. There is another USSSA baseball tournament on the grounds this weekend, to go along with the Dick’s Sporting Goods April Ambush, which features 65 soccer club teams from all over. Freeman said there would be over 90 baseball teams for that particular tournament.
“We’re in the midst of a seven-weekend stretch. That happens when March hits. Our next weekend where we don’t have an event is Easter,” Freeman said. “I say we don’t have anything, we actually have a softball tournament the Saturday before Easter. We’re going to have something just about every weekend until the end of June.”
There are a lot of reasons why FNC Park hosts so many of these tournaments. Oxford is a desired place to visit but even more importantly, the facility is truly in a class by itself. Freeman gets positive reviews from those that take part in events, and he notices many teams coming back to play.
“I say it every time, but the guys we have on staff that take care of the grounds, they just care so deeply about it and it obviously shows,” Freeman said. “They take the time to produce something that the community can be proud of. It’s gotten out state wide just the quality of field play you’re going to get when you’re here. Then with the addition of the four turf fields that we just installed over the winter, the reputation is just getting stronger.”
There are eight fields now that feature a turf infield. Even if there is a 100 percent chance of rain, the games can be played.
“Once the rain gets out of here, we can be playing five minutes later with the new fields. As long as there isn’t lightning or just a torrential downpour and does it all day, we’re going to be able to play,” Freeman said. “It’s tough to put a price tag on something where you can hop right on the field and not have to send everybody home because you have too much rain on your field. I don’t know of any other park in the state of Mississippi that can offer that. Maybe a few but not in the quantity that we have. That’s one of the reasons we did it, and it’s paying off already.”
When Freeman was hired 10 years ago by the city, the goal was to get things right from a facility standpoint. The expectation has continued to rise as to what the facility can provide from a tournament standpoint.
“We were really concerned about getting the facility built correctly because you only have one shot at that. Now that it’s built, it’s been our job to continue to bring events and add events,” Freeman said. “Organizers want to come to Oxford and to have a nice park to be able to offer beside everything Oxford has to offer has been a good marriage.”
Courtesy of John Davis and the Oxford Park Commission.
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