Gearing up for a busy fall sports season at Valley Sportsplex

Published 9:00 am Friday, July 21, 2023

VALLEY — This has been a hectic spring and summer season at Valley Sportsplex, and the Valley Parks and Recreation staff have been gearing up for what will likely be an even busier season this fall. Sportsplex Director Mark Hudmon discussed that at Wednesday’s noon meeting at the Kiwanis Club of Valley.

Registration is now underway for the fall season.

“We are trying to get the word out about it,” Hudmon said. “We’ll have youth football, soccer and cheerleading. Everything will start picking up when the school year starts on August 8th. The fall season will start around the first of September and continue through the Halloween season.”

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The Sportsplex staff spends much of its time preparing the playing fields at the Sportsplex and Ram Stadium. They also maintain Point University’s practice fields behind the Community Center.

Valley Parks & Recreation recently had three youth baseball teams and a girls softball team advance in district and state play. The 10 & Under baseball team finished third in the state tournament hosted in Headland, Alabama. They played six games and narrowly missed out on the finals.

There’s a men’s softball league that’s trying to gain traction. There are three teams with doubleheaders taking place on Thursdays.

During the spring and summer, Valley Parks & Recreation rents the five fields at Valley Sportsplex for youth baseball and softball tournaments. It costs $125 per field to have a tournament, and the place is very busy on most weekends. Hosting these tournaments, the city easily pulls in more than

$1,000 a weekend. Local lodging places like the Hampton Inn and Suites and the Quality Inn are usually booked on tournament weekends, and local restaurants and stores benefit from this influx of visitors.

The Sportsplex concession stand does well, too.

“Some organizations will use us and Opelika the same weekend,” Hudmon said. “We were really busy this year with a senior men’s softball tournament. It really filled the place up.”

Most of the fall tournaments will be one-day events played on Sundays.

“We try to have a good balance in what we do,” Hudmon said. “We have basketball, swimming and track and field for both boys and girls. We have baseball for boys and softball for girls. Something that’s growing in popularity is cheerleading for the girls. We had more than 60 girls taking part in it in last fall’s youth football season.”

One of the most crowd-pleasing sports is flag football for five and six-year-olds. Tee ball for that age group is pretty entertaining in the spring.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) now permits flag football for high school girls.

A couple of factors limits Valley’s ability to attract state tournaments. “It hurts us to have only five fields,” Hudmon said. “You need more than that to host a state tournament. We can go only 70 feet out on our baselines. That limits us to 12 & under play. Older boys can go to 90 feet out on the baselines.”

If Valley went out that far with present fields it would get into the irrigation system.

There’s no admission charge to see most events at the Sportsplex. “We do charge at the gate for tournaments,” Hudmon said.

A portion of the gate fees at Dixie Youth tournaments go to scholarships.

Ample rainfall this spring and summer has been a continual headache for field maintenance. “We cut the grass and paint the field at Ram Stadium and at the Point University proactive fields,” Hudmon said.

There’s also grass cutting and laying off the baselines at the Sportsplex.

When asked if turf fields are being looked at, Hudmon said more and more people are into that and it does have its advantages. It can be costly, though.

Opelika High is looking at installing its second turf field. They also have a videoboard at their stadium.

Hudmon said it can take up to 40 people to maintain the fields during a busy sports period.

“We have to borrow people from other departments to get the job done,” he said.

Hudmon is a salaried employee. There are some weeks he may work 70 to 80 hours. This could involve everything from field maintenance to dealing with people who call him late at night or on weekends.

“It’s okay,” he said. “I understand that it’s part of the position.”

One of the hardest things to deal with for the VPR staff is the craziness some of the parents get into. This is mostly from out-of-town people who are here for the tournaments. Some parents who have traveled here can get highly emotional at something that involves their kid. They sometimes berate umpires with foul language and harass players and coaches on the opposing team.

“This is something we will not tolerate,” Hudmon said. “There have been times we have asked people to leave. It would be so much easier for us if the mommas and daddies would just let them play.”

This hyper-partisan behavior on the part of parents is something that’s hard for Hudmon to relate to. “When we were coming along, our parents had to work during the day and didn’t come to many of our games. When they did, they didn’t get ugly toward other people.”

There are some drawbacks in being a parks and recreation official, but Hudmon said he loves what he does and has found every situation solvable. “Our goal is for everyone to be happy when they are at the Sportsplex,” he said. “We want them to have an enjoyable experience and to leave with smiles on their faces.’