FRED RAMOS | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR
EDINBURG — A new sports complex was dedicated here Friday in honor of one of the Rio Grande Valley’s better known philanthropists.
Dozens of school children, parents, Edinburg CISD administrators and city of Edinburg officials were on hand for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Janet Ogden Vackar Sports Complex, located between Eisenhower Elementary School and Memorial Middle School at 3405 N. Doolittle Road in Edinburg.
The complex’s namesake and face of the Bert Ogden Auto Group, Janet Vackar is considered a passionate advocate for children. Over the years, she has supported causes that have helped the emotional, physical and educational development of children.
Vackar was on hand at the park’s opening ceremony, and said she considered it an honor to have a park dedicated in her name.
“Edinburg has been so wonderful to my family,” Vackar said. “So what I wanted to do is give back to the community. This sports park means that so many kids will be able to come with their families and have fun. So, to be a part of this is such an honor.”
The 21-acre sports complex, created in collaboration with the school district and city, will house a walking and running trail, a baseball field, a practice football field, two softball fields, three soccer fields, three basketball courts, four tennis courts and a playground area with a swing for handicapped children.
In addition to creating lasting childhood memories, the playground will offer a secure environment for families to enjoy, she added.
“This park will provide our youth with a safe place to play in the outdoors and interact with others,” Vackar said.
In the past, Vackar has provided scholarships to UTRGV students, donated to various Boys and Girls clubs, the Palmer Drug Abuse Program, Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Palmer Valley Animal Shelter. She was also named McAllen’s Woman of the Year in 2017.
She and husband Robert Vackar are the owners of the Bert Ogden Auto Group, which includes 19 dealerships across the Valley.
Also on hand was Edinburg CISD Superintendent Rene Gutierrez. He said the park is located in an underserved area of rural Edinburg. In the end, Gutierrez said, the entire community will benefit from the new sports complex.
“It is very important to have this park on the northeast side of Edinburg. It’s kind of far from the city. They are not close to any facilities that the city offers. So developing the park on the north-east side of Edinburg is putting the park close to the community and the families that need it,” Gutierrez said. “Now they don’t have to go so far to go to a park and use baseball fields and basketball courts or playgrounds for the children.”
Lyzette Gonzalez is the parent of three nearby Edinburg CISD students.
“It’s very valuable because I can bring my kids and they can play. I can exercise, I can jog, I can watch them play, and they can hang around with their friends,” Gonzalez said. “It’s close to home, so I can watch them. There won’t be any problems.”
An Edinburg CISD student color guard was on hand as the crowd stood and recited the pledge.
Valeria Cruz, 14, is a member of the Memorial Middle School choir. She and classmate Isabella Hetzel, 13, sang the national anthem at the opening ceremony. Both said they would take advantage of the park’s many features.
“Yes, I will be coming here. Actually, it will help a lot with my physical activity. I would enjoy spending all day here because I really like sports,” Cruz said.
Hetzel agreed and said the new park will be an added convenience.
“It’s really important because of all the sports we’re involved in. Sometimes we don’t have time or the space that we need to practice. This park will let us do that,” Hetzel said. “Everyone will enjoy it. There are a lot of things to do here.”
Before she concluded her remarks, Vackar had some words of encouragement for the many children in the crowd. She told them perseverance was the key to success, adding, “I grew up here. I didn’t make the best grades. But I stayed strong, I went to school. But I felt good because I was confident. So I teach children that they can be anything they desire to be, just keep going forward. Children with disabilities will come here. Everyone will come here.”