OXFORD – The way was long and often contentious, but Oxford and Lafayette County can boast a first-class sports complex that already has proven a boon both to local families and visiting competitors.
Officials and residents dedicated Oxford-Lafayette Fields at FNC Park on Tuesday to cap an effort that dated back to the previous century to expand and improve facilities for sports programs – especially for youthful athletes.
“We wouldn’t be standing here without Richard Howorth’s vision,” said Mayor George “Pat” Patterson of his predecessor. “At a critical juncture, it was also Dennis Tosh’s and FNC’s pocketbook. They’ve set a benchmark for a lot of other people in this county, this town.”
“We have in sponsorship commitments $1.3 million,” said FNC Park planning and marketing director Brad Freeman. “Trust me: I’ll put your name on that light pole if you want to make a donation.”
FNC Inc., the park’s namesake donor, is an Oxford-based mortgage technology company. Its president, Dennis Tosh, recalled playing “musical cars” with his wife as they ferried their three athletic children for games and practices among Oxford’s scattered facilities.
“During the various seasons, the highlight was to go to Tupelo and marvel at their facilities,” he said. “People in Oxford used to ask, ‘Why can’t Oxford have that type of facility?’ If you’ll look around, I think you’ll see that … we expected the very best, and it certainly exceeded our expectations.”
Howorth said the $6 million park that has hosted thousands of games and practices, took form with a combination of city, county and private funding. The county’s cooperation was particularly difficult to secure, as supervisors long tried to sell the public on a separate county complex.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Howorth said. “This has been talked about and tried to work out for years.”
Built just outside Oxford city limits on land donated by Larry McAlexander, Oxford-Lafayette Fields at FNC Park was designed to consolidate Oxford Park Commission competitions in one location. Aggressive marketing also has made it into a tourism generator.
“This year we had eight tournaments, where 236 travel baseball teams came and stayed in our hotels and ate in our restaurants,” Freeman said. “We’ve got another 46 teams coming this weekend.”
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal