Team USA Olympian christens McAllen’s new softball complex

McALLEN — Ushered in by an Olympian, the completely renovated softball complex next to McAllen High School opened Monday with six fields, new restrooms, concessions and scoreboards.

Team USA softball pitcher Monica Abbott, who silver medaled in the 2008 Olympics, is seen Monday morning, Aug. 19, 2019, with McAllen Mayor Jim Darling at the opening ceremony for the city’s new softball field. (Courtesy photo)

“Being a young female athlete and having the opportunity to play on a team, to develop life skills, to develop teamwork, confidence — these types of things are so valuable in young women,” said Monica Abbott, who has pitched for Team USA and was a member of the silver medalist team in the 2008 Olympics.

Abbott was on hand Monday to throw the first pitch at the new complex. Also in attendance was Mayor Jim Darling and City Commissioners Victor “Seby” Haddad and Omar Quintanilla. This complex received the last of the bond money from a $15 million proposition that McAllen voters approved in 2013.

Last summer, the city opened the large youth baseball complex in north McAllen, which is where most of that money was diverted. The remaining $4 million was allocated for the softball project, according to Mike Hernandez, the parks and recreation director. Hernandez said the spending on the softball complex has come in under budget; it cost $3.5 million, he said.

Some more money will be spent on landscaping and shade structures, but the completion of this complex caps the six years it took for the city to build the two projects from the 2013 election, which had two other propositions on the ballot, also for $15 million each.

Voters approved all three propositions — one was to help fund the construction of the Performing Arts Center, which opened in 2016. The other measure on that ballot was for various street improvement projects, some of which have been completed while others remain under construction.

But with the baseball and softball complexes now completed,

“We want to make this a destination, not only for other people to play sports down here but make sure that our community is able to enjoy these facilities,” said Haddad, whose central McAllen District 5 that he represents is where the softball complex is located.

Darling, as Haddad did, thanked the McAllen taxpayers. And Haddad noted implementing sports facilities for everyone.

“The people of McAllen who have always supported the idea that McAllen wants to provide equal access to facilities for all types of sports,” Haddad said. “We want to make sure that not only do we allow every type of sport in McAllen, but we provide facilities for male sports, for female sports, all-inclusive fields, and we’ve seen a lot of that this year.”

Earlier this summer, at the youth baseball complex in north McAllen, the construction began on the Rio Grande Valley’s first “miracle field,” a baseball field built for children with mental and physical disabilities. The new field will feature a turf surface to accommodate wheelchairs and any other equipment that could move more smoothly on turf.