By Brian N. Willhite
For many local children playing youth tackle football, the grass beneath their cleats will soon become a little greener. Golden Empire Youth Tackle Football and Cheer, with the city of Bakersfield and funding from State Farm, are working together to complete the second phase of the State Farm Sports Village master plan. The village will include four football fields and four soccer fields at 9001 Ashe Road, north of Taft Highway. More fields for various sports will be built with more stages, including areas for commercial development.
Ron White, executive director of Golden Empire ó which has leased the football fields ó is the liaison for all parties involved, has consulted on facility designs, and will play a role in operations management once the project has been completed.
By Brian N. Willhite
White spoke to Bakersfield Life about the impact of youth tackle football in the community, and how having dedicated sports facilities will help grow the sport here. Golden Empire currently has about 2,500 youth participants in its tackle football and cheer programs. The second phase of construction in scheduled to be completed in September 2013.
What events led to the
construction of the four new football fields in
phase two of the State Farm Sports Village
In terms of the football section being added to phase two, itís a matter of necessity. Thereís really a field shortage crisis in Kern County ó regardless of the sport. There are just not enough places for kids and youth to play any type of sport. The city saw that need, and weíve been discussing our need with the city and the community for a long time. They have come to the table and we have come to the table and weíve really put our heads together to figure out what we can do on both sides to service the families of the community. Thatís really the basis and the origin of this project.
What does it mean for Bakersfield to
have such a facility, and how can this improve
local youth sports?
For me, itís real simple: it reflects the growth of the community. It reflects the city knowing what its needs are, knowing how to serve various demographics, age groups and the growth of the sport. Itís also the difference between playing a limited, shorter season, to now, where we have the opportunity to make tackle football almost a year-round activity. The opportunity to have passing leagues, flag football, and then more importantly to be able to have post season play where you can bring revenue back into the city, and support the families and the economy by hosting a state or even national championship. That would be great for the hospitality community here. And being centrally located, itís something long overdue, and I believe will be well-received.
How will the State Farm Sports
Village stand out from other similar youth
Iíve had the opportunity to tour around the United States and basically look at other youth facilities. The one that I would compare it to most closely would be the one in Las Vegas, where they host a couple of national events. It's very similar to that. But in terms of the Bakersfield or Kern County area, Iíve never seen anything like it. The master plan of this facility calls for more than just football; itís a well-rounded facility. Eventually, it will have a lake and possibly baseball and basketball. When you look at the diversity of sports this facility is going to encompass, itís amazing and I think that'ís what sets it apart.
How is the funding for this project
developed and how does Golden Empire participate
in the process?
The city has stepped up through funding from State Farm and is basically bringing phase two to fruition by getting the fields graded and ready for play. Our contribution beyond all that in a lease process will be, hopefully, through corporate sponsorship, grants and a real grassroots effort on our end through fundraisers. We'll be able to come in and fund the things that we need like goal posts, stands, bleachers, and concessions ó those sorts of things. Really, weíre in a partnership with the city. They have got us to this point, and weíre going to take the ball and keep it rolling to build this facility up and be a top-notch facility.
But, itís crucial to know that we are looking for corporate sponsorships and naming rights of these fields to help further our cause for the community. We would love to see a large corporation come out and partner with us ó someone who can come out here and know that they left a legacy and contributed to the youth of the community.