By: Mary Helen Sprecher of Sports Destination Management
In Lubbock, Texas, the Berl Huffman Athletic Complex is on the verge of a renaissance. Two years ago, Market Lubbock and the City of Lubbock partnered on a $7 million investment to upgrade the venue, a crown jewel even among the city’s many athletic facilities. Despite its size and accessible location, however, the complex was showing its age. Years of successful tournaments had taken their toll and its fields were looking worn and tired.
In the fall of 2018, Lubbock’s City Council unanimously approved the extensive renovation project and work began shortly afterward. Now, the end of the project is in sight and in spring 2020, tournament players will be greeted by a state-of-the-art park, ready to host just about any sport requiring a flat field, including soccer, field hockey, rugby, Ultimate, football and lacrosse.
With Lubbock’s strong history and culture of soccer, as home to multiple youth soccer organizations, Scott Harrison, director of Lubbock Sports, says that is the sport that is likely to dominate the fields.
The new and improved Athletic Complex will be able to accommodate the soccer-playing population – and to build on it in years to come, thanks to the creation of an enhanced experience throughout. Improvements include a new entrance and exit road, increased parking, locations for food trucks and expanded restroom facilities.
But those are just the details compared to what athletes will feel when they step onto the 375,000 square feet of fenced synthetic turf championship fields with state-of-the-art irrigation and LED lighting.
The entire complex spreads over 151 acres and includes more than 50 soccer fields.
“This is going to be the premier soccer field in the state,” says Harrison. “We now have the capability of putting on big-time tournaments and giving them full service. This is going to be a top-five destination for youth soccer.”
The facility will be able to host up to nine games at once on the championship fields. Other games can be played simultaneously at the park’s additional fields, creating the ability to host even the largest events. Additionally, fields are flexible enough to accommodate small-sided games as well.
Additionally, Harrison sees opportunities for plenty of sports outside of soccer.
“Anything that takes bigger fields, we can host,” he points out. “I’ve been thinking about 7-on-7 football, Punt, Pass and Kick competitions, rugby – all kinds of things. We’re going to be able to handle it.”
The timing is perfect for a soccer-centric venue. With the summer Olympics on the horizon and the Women’s World Cup in the rear-view mirror, there is likely to be a surge in interest in the already burgeoning sport. The Berl Huffman Athletic Complex will be perfectly positioned not just to welcome the influx, but to create an even bigger player population and inspire great performances. As Harrison mentioned, once the players’ shoes hit the turf, they’ll want to come back.
Lubbock Sports is ready to see that tournament directors want to come back as well. The organization offers a wide range of support services to owners and rights holders, including welcome bags, on-site registration support, name badges and pre-registration assistance.
Additionally, Lubbock Sports can help provide something many tournaments find challenging these days: officials. Thanks to a networking partnership with other Texas sports cities, Lubbock can leverage the presence of referees from other sports cities such as Abilene and Midland.
Event owners and rights holders will be hard-pressed to find a city that is easier to get to than Lubbock, located in West Texas. While its nickname, the “Hub City,” came about because it was the economic, educational and healthcare hub of the Texas South Plains, that moniker might just as easily apply to Lubbock’s availability by air.
Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport is served by three major airlines and is about five miles from the city center, making it easy and convenient to reach.
Rental cars are available at the airport from five national companies, and ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft also abound in Lubbock.
Off the Field
Lubbock offers a total of 6,400 hotel rooms in various price points and levels of service, with several more under construction. There are also plenty of restaurants that welcome large groups, and eateries of almost every culinary style. For events such as banquets, awards dinners, assemblies and other ceremonies, hotel ballroom space is available. Some hotels also run shuttles to the airport and other destinations.
“You can find what you need,” says Harrison, “whether you’re looking for meeting rooms, full-service hotels or anything else.”
Need to set up an expo or trade show to go along with a sports event? The Lubbock Memorial Civic Center has 95,000 square feet of flexible space that currently welcomes more than 800,000 guests and upwards of 800 events per year. A total of 40,000 square feet of column-free space is perfect for exhibit halls or even futsal games, for those seeking out indoor play space. The column-free area includes pull-out bleachers that can seat 1,400, permanent balcony seating for 1,595, two dressing rooms and a 16-channel permanent sound system.
Celebrating a victory (or even shrugging off a loss) is easy in Lubbock, too. Adventure Park, one of the city’s newest attractions, has a full menu of fun on tap for including go-karts, a climbing wall, bumper boats, a game room, a laser maze, bumper cars, the Adventure Tower and mini-golf.
Downtown Lubbock offers plenty to do as well, with live music, shopping and a vibrant arts community. There are museums and wineries as well as a flourishing craft beer scene. The Visit Lubbock website offers information on upcoming events as well as an online Visitors’ Guide.
Event owners and rights holders will want to make a note of Lubbock’s versatility; the city is home to Texas Tech University, a Big 12 school, and Lubbock Christian University. Both universities offer outstanding athletic facilities that host a variety of sports events each year. In addition, the city has a well-rounded portfolio of other sports venues, covering everything from baseball to bowling.
It is, however, the renovation of the Berl Huffman Athletic Complex that is about to take Lubbock to another level. In addition to welcoming tournaments, the venue will have far-reaching consequences. In fact, officials pointed to the potential of the renovations to improve the quality of life in the area overall by creating a positive experience for children and by extension, helping with retention and growth of the local workforce.
Lubbock Sports is ready to make sure visiting teams have an experience that makes them want to return as well.
“We want to make everything here the best it can possibly be,” says Harrison. “When all is said and done, this is going to be a premier facility.”