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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
Collierville High School announced Sept. 20 that Landers Auto Group has secured the naming rights of its brand-new $18.5 million sportsplex.
"We celebrate the generous sponsorship and donorship opportunities that Landers Auto Group has undertaken in support of our school system," Superintendent John Aitken said. "They really are invested in the community and have made a financial investment as well as a resource investment in other ways to better our school system and our community."
Landers Ford managing partner Don Kitchens said that the auto group has agreed to a 10-year commitment to the school worth $50,000 annually, totaling $500,000.
"We're so tickled to be part of a brand-new facility like this," Kitchens said.
The facility includes a 5,000-seat football stadium called Dragon Field at Landers SportsPlex, which hosted its first game on Sept. 21 - a homecoming contest against Wooddale.
All of the seating is bleacher style, except for a 200-seat VIP/season ticket holder section. The scoreboard features the same high-resolution display you see at NFL stadiums, according to the school.
"It's kind of hard to believe because you get so used to what you're used to at the old school," senior wide receiver Justin Stonework said. "When you're out here you just kind of lose your breath a little bit realizing that this is all yours. It's pretty cool."
The new Colliersville High School opened in August. The original plan was for the Dragons to open up the football season in their new stadium, but weather-related delays pushed the debut back a few weeks. Nevertheless, the team is ready to make the most of their new home.
"It's about time. We waited forever for this," said senior defensive end C.J. Barnes. "It was supposed to be ready weeks ago. And we're excited to be playing on it now and having a chance to be the first ones to win on it."
Coach Mike O'Neill took three trips to Texas to visit different stadiums as he was gathering ideas for the project. The football stadium is done, but there is still plenty of work left to do on the sportsplex. When it is complete, it will include fields for baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse, six tennis courts, a 3,000-seat varsity gym, a 750-seat auxiliary gym, a 150-seat auxiliary gym, and 1500 parking spaces.
"I wanted something that no one else around here had, even the private schools. We got it," said O'Neill.
Perhaps the most unique aspect is the indoor practice facility, which the players and coaches call the "turf room." It's about half of a football field in length, starting at the 40-yard line and ending in an end zone featuring the words "The Ville," which is short for Collierville. The turf room can be used by multiple teams, including soccer, football and lacrosse. It even has a home plate for the baseball and softball team.
"It means a lot," O'Neill said.
"The amount of pride put into the planning. The financial commitment. You know, everybody's taxes went up some, but everybody was willing to pay that commitment and you know their property value has gone up, too. We're growing like crazy. They built this school for 3,500 kids at its maximum point and in a few years we'll be there. But I think the community itself has a lot of pride from the mayor on down. The buzz is there. And I'm really proud of the school itself."
"This has been a labor of love, sweat and tears," Aitken said. "We worked together. It takes a team to do something like this. It's an ambitious project. You're on a 156-acre site, so you can obviously tell that a lot of thought and foresight went into both the size of the site for the future, but also the footprint. It has a real nice layout."
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