The first sporting competition scheduled for the new Foley Event Center will be the Bounders Beach Bash gymnastics contest, set for Sept. 8-10.
This is the latest addition to the Foley Sports Tourism Complex, located due east of the Tanger Outlet Mall at 920 E. Pride Blvd. It joins 16 natural grass fields used for soccer, lacrosse and football, with one championship field featuring a press box, seating for up to 1,000 fans and television broadcast-ready lighting.
The event center is a 90,000-square-foot, multi-use indoor facility next to the sports fields. The building is designed to host six basketball courts, 12 volleyball courts or 12 pickleball courts along with cheerleading, dance and gymnastics. The city of Foley broke ground on the $16.2 million facility in June 2016. Non-sporting plans involve banquets, conventions, trade shows and concerts.
The gymnastics meet is taking place in partnership with the Bama Bounders gym of Tuscaloosa. Organizers are expecting 3,000 participants and spectators. This is the sixth year for the meet, but the first time in Foley.
“The Beach Bash has seen so much growth over the last few years; we were outgrowing the space we were in,” Bama Bounders owner Erin Kightlinger said. “We are excited about the amusement park at the neighboring OWA complex.”
As previously reported in Lagniappe, OWA is an amusement park and entertainment complex development owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The park features 21 rides at the 14-acre facility, which opened in July.
Don Staley was executive director of the Foley Sports Tourism Complex before recently accepting the president’s role for the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports group. However, he spoke about the event center prior to his departure.
“We are looking at bringing in everything from RV shows, to graduations, to basketball competitions,” Staley said. “But we are lucky to have the Bounders Beach Bash as the inaugural event because it will bring a large number of visitors to Foley, and also draw local spectators. We hope to use this new building to not only bring tourism dollars to the area but to also bring in events our community can enjoy.”
USA football facility collapses
In December 2016, the University of South Alabama’s Board of Trustees approved construction of a football practice facility. The Jaguar Training Center would have a footprint of 96,000 square feet, and house a fully covered regulation field and a 15-yard practice area for supplemental drills.
Much of the metal framing was up, and there was hope the facility would be completed this year. However, that all changed recently when the structure collapsed.
“At approximately 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 22, the structure of the Jaguar Training Center, a covered athletics practice facility that is under construction on the University of South Alabama campus, fell within the construction limits of the site. No workers were present in that area at the time,” USA media relations director Bob Lowry said in a release. “University police secured the scene of the event, which is under investigation. No determination has been made at this time about the cause.”
At this time, university officials were uncertain about future plans for a covered practice field. Practice for the 2017 campaign got underway on Sunday. The Jaguars kick off the season Saturday, Sept. 2, at Ole Miss.
Forever Wild board to meet
The Board of Trustees of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust will conduct its next meeting Aug. 10 at the Bryant Conference Center in Tuscaloosa. The meeting begins at 10 a.m.
Forever Wild was established in 1992 as a vehicle to preserve and protect important ecological and recreational tracts of land in the state. Updates on program activities and tract assessments will be presented.
The public is invited to attend and encouraged to submit nominations of tracts of land for possible Forever Wild Program purchases. Nominations can be made online at www.alabamaforeverwild.com.
Jaguar softball players honored
The University of South Alabama’s Devin Brown, Kaleigh Todd and MC Nichols represented the state of Alabama in a series of softball games against the U.S. Women’s National Team. Haleigh Lowe was also selected but sidelined with an injury.
The players were divided into two squads. Brown and Todd competed at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The U.S. stars swept 9-1 and 7-0 wins. Brown took the pitching loss in the first game, allowing five runs, five hits and five walks in two innings. Todd was 1-for-3 at the plate with a run scored.
Nichols played for the second club at Auburn’s Jane B. Moore Field. The U.S. team again had no problems in recording 10-2 and 7-0 victories. Nichols was hitless in two batting attempts.
Guthrie to coach at SHC
Spring Hill College has named Joe Guthrie as head coach of the Badgers’ softball program. He is coming to Mobile from Bucknell University where he served as a volunteer assistant under Bison head coach (and wife) Courtnay Foster. This summer Guthrie is an assistant with the Scrap Yard Dawgs of Conroe, Texas, in the National Pro Fastpitch League.
Prior to his year at Bucknell, Guthrie was an assistant at Penn State for three years. Before then, he spent six seasons as the head softball coach and assistant athletic director at Marion Military Institute in northern Alabama. He has also been a scout for the Miami Marlins and coached baseball at numerous high schools.
Guthrie will be just the third coach for Spring Hill, which first fielded a softball team in 1998. In the last five seasons, the Badgers had a 197-68 overall record and an 86-18 mark in conference play.
As a college baseball player, he was on the roster at Kentucky, Bevill State and Alabama. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Alabama along with a master’s and ROTC commission at Jacksonville State. From 2002-05, he was an infantry officer in the U.S. Army.