It took 26 years, but Traverse City Central’s soccer, baseball and softball players now have a place to officially call home.
The Trojans Athletic Complex opened Wednesday.
Plans for the outdoor sports facility began taking shape a quarter century ago, before any of the players on the field in Wednesday’s inaugural match were born.
U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak in 1995 introduced federal legislation that enabled the transfer of 27 acres from the U.S. Coast Guard to Traverse City Area Public Schools. Four years ago, a bond campaign raised $107 million for construction. Work began in 2020.
Soccer long has been played at the site. But the completed complex now includes soccer fields and baseball/softball diamonds — and lights that enable night games.
The LED lights, specifically designed so they don’t interfere with pilots’ vision for landings at nearby Cherry Capital Airport, may prove crucial to futures uses of the complex. Very few softball/baseball fields in northern Michigan have lights.
Incoming Trojans Athletic Director Justin Thorrington said the lights could earn Traverse City Central High School consideration to host Michigan High School Athletic Association regional and super regionals playoff games in baseball and softball.
Grand Traverse County administrator and Trojans softball coach Nate Alger said hosting such regionals could be a boon to Traverse City’s economy.
“If you get district draws and regional draws, we have teams that travel quite a ways for that kind of business,” Alger said. “They would be in hotels, restaurants to eat and places to stay. So this is a premier facility that’s going to draw some attention and bring people into this area.”
The baseball and softball fields should be ready for play in the spring. Wednesday’s soccer game marked a new chapter in the site’s utility for Central. The addition of lighting to enable night play could be a game-changer for Traverse City’s economy.
Central’s athletes may not have been around when TCAPS took possession of the land next to the Coast Guard station. But they can be proud to compete at today’s first-class facility.
“A kid doesn’t have to feel like maybe they’re not getting the same quality of environment educationally and athletically as a metro Detroit school,” TCAPS superintendent John VanWagoner said. “We have everything here for the benefit of our kids that would match up to any of those schools.”
The community as a whole also will benefit from the existence of the new sports complex. It’s one more batter in our roster of facilities that will attract visitors who spend time and money in Traverse City.