By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Whipping winds couldn’t keep more than 100 people from celebrating enhancements to the city’s 25-year-old Sportsplex.
City and recreation officials on a blustery Thursday afternoon dedicated an expanded concessions stand and rest room facilities, a new pavilion, a new Wall of Champions, and the Weston Reed Memorial Plaza.
Weston Reed was 11 years old when in 2007 he died of sudden cardiac arrest during a soccer game at the Sportsplex. Since then, his family has worked to place lifesaving defibrillators throughout the city.
The Reed family was on hand to unveil the new plaza, which honors not only Weston, but also other supporters of youth soccer who have since passed away.
“I think Weston is proud,” said his teary-eyed mother, Julia Reed. “We’re just excited that they’d do something like that. This is what he loved doing. He loved playing soccer.”
In addition to the boy’s name written across the brick wall, a plaque bearing his image and an inscription about his love of soccer also appear prominently. Many in the crowd stopped to read the inscription and to hug members of the Reed family.
Enhancements to the 15-field soccer complex cost roughly $250,000. They were paid for in part by the city and in part by contributions from sports associations and private and business donors.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department seeks additional support to pay off some of the debt. Bricks, benches, plaques, trees and flag poles are available for sponsorship.
“This place is really a hallowed place in Tupelo all throughout the years,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr. at the 15-minute dedication ceremony.
Reed called Tupelo’s commitment to its children through youth sports one of its defining strengths. He said he brought his own children to the Sportsplex to play when they were young.
“The programs we have are second to none,” said Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis to a cheering crowd.
Among those in attendance were the Sportsplex’s earliest supporters, like Jim Bain, Jimmy Pappas and Judy Ballard.
It was Ballard’s husband, Jim, who had first envisioned the facility and sought to rally the community around the idea. He passed away in 1997.
“Jim would be so proud,” Judy Ballard said of the enhancements. “I can’t believe it’s been 25 years.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.