FIRST PITCH PENDING

Saturday ribbon cutting finishes decades-long ballfields initiative

One of Kilgore's six new ballfields in the Whataburger Sports Complex gets some last-minute care Monday ahead of Saturday's ribbon cutting and first pitch ceremony, set for 11 a.m. at the South Commerce Street facility.
One of Kilgore's six new ballfields in the Whataburger Sports Complex gets some last-minute care Monday ahead of Saturday's ribbon cutting and first pitch ceremony, set for 11 a.m. at the South Commerce Street facility.
NEWS HERALD photo by JAMES DRAPER
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It’s been a long time coming, but first pitch at the City of Kilgore’s new ballfields is just days off.

Construction began in 2015. Clearing the space started two years before that on land purchased by the city in 2011.

Kilgore Boys Baseball Association President Danny Henry’s been looking forward to it for the past decade. Others on the Kilgore City Council, in City Hall and throughout the community, have been at work on the project for 20 years or more.

The wait’s over at 11 a.m. March 17 at the Whataburger Sports Complex.

“I know everybody’s really excited,” Henry said Tuesday. “We have games scheduled for every age group. We will be playing on all six fields.”

Spearheaded by City of Kilgore officials and workers coordinating with KBBA, the new ballparks were funded with 4A(s) funds raised by Kilgore Economic Development Corporation through a half-cent sales tax set aside for quality of life projects. City Hall announced Whataburger’s sponsorship last week, the second time the company has secured such naming rights here.

The ribbon cutting and opening pitch ceremony is set for 11 a.m. sharp, according to City of Kilgore Events Coordinator Sonya Trout.

“Try and be there at least 15 minutes early,” she suggested, noting a portion of South Commerce Street will be closed to facilitate parking at Driller Park and pedestrians crossing to the ballfields.

There’s stadium seating for 320 people at the complex, spread between the six fields, with plenty of open space for attendees to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets, Trout noted.

Saturday morning’s event will feature Kilgore Fire Department Honor Guard and the National Anthem sung by a special guest.

“We’ll have representatives from Whataburger in attendance as well as other dignitaries that have been invited,” Trout said. “We’re hoping to forge a good relationship with a brand such as a Whataburger and add to potential for future sponsorships with big brands for the City of Kilgore for future projects.”

The ribbon cutting ceremony will include a brief history of the complex and how far it’s come, Trout said, with three KBBA catchers ready for three simultaneous opening pitches: by Jack Moore, representing Whataburger; Bobby Beane, for Kilgore Economic Development Corporation; and Mayor Pro Tem Harvey McClendon, a long-running advocate for the project.

Following the ceremony, Whataburger will have a spin-and-win game with new sports complex memorabilia, free popcorn and sunflower seeds for guests in addition to cold treats available from Charlie’s Sno-Ball.

“It represents a huge tourism beacon, basically, for the city,” Trout said, “working with the chamber and with the tourism bureau to draw people from all across Texas and even from other states to have their tournaments at a multimillion complex that will have six different fields there.”

The new complex helps Kilgore keep up with surrounding communities, Henry agreed.

“We have these fields that are basically state of the art, like Longview and Tyler have, that also help us compete with Select Ball and Travel Ball, things like that,” he said. “It gives us more opportunity to host tournaments, to bring outside teams in.”

For more information, call Trout at Kilgore City Hall at 903-984-5081.

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