By Robert Wilson
Park Place Christian Academy’s dream of having its own athletic facilities turned into reality when the private school in Rankin County held a groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 27.
Park Place sophomore football and baseball player Parker Bray is just one of the many Park Place athletes who is looking forward to this dream:
“One thing that will change by having the fields is being able to walk out of class and straight onto your field for your practice or game. This is going to be awesome, not having to take a bus everywhere.”
For years, Park Place athletes and coaches didn’t have a home, they bussed to Pearl’s old field for football, Pearl’s old gym for basketball, Mississippi College in Clinton for baseball and Shiloh Park in Brandon for softball.
Park Place head of school Jason Cook emceed the ceremony held at on the school’s campus where the 23 acres have been purchased for the athletic complex.
“The new addition of athletic fields will greatly enhance our students’ experience,” Cook said. “Being able to play on our own property will be a great opportunity to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the visiting teams and their fans as they play our PPCA Crusader athletes.”
Park Place Baptist Church senior pastor, Dr. Keith Grubbs, said most of the 23 acres were originally thought to be wetland property, but then it was discovered the composite of the soil had changed.
“God is a wonder-working God and somehow, someway, He shrunk the 11 acres of wetland down to two,” Grubbs said. “The great news today is that nearly all of the property of the 23 acres can be developed.”
The first phase of the development is along the eastern acreage by Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks along Stribling Lane in Brandon. Irrigation is completed and grass is already taking hold there for a combination soccer and football field with a track course surrounding it.
Cook said: “We’re trying to get that field ready to play soccer in the fall of 2022.”
The school is expected to play football there in 2023 depending on weather conditions, arrival of construction supplies and fundraising for necessary equipment and seating.
A new softball/baseball field is being prepared on the acreage in the southeastern corner, where I-20 borders the property.
“The baseball/softball field will have a synthetic turf infield so that we can play both sports on it, with a portable mound and Bermuda grass outfield,” Cook said. The projected date for completion of the baseball/softball field is in the Spring of 2022.
One unique feature Cook said is that “beneath both end zones and under home plate, we will bury a copy of God’s Word open to 2 Timothy 4:17.”
The act symbolizes Park Place’s emphasis that competitive sports is always secondary to its evangelical and discipleship goals.
“This is the Lord’s complex, for His glory,” Cook said. “We want to see lives changed, souls saved, our pleasure, but done for His glory.”
Nat Whitten and Jonathan Johnson of Pickering Engineering, Jason Stewart of Stewart Project Management, Jamie Weir of WBA Architecture and Bud McGehee of Southern Rock LLC have helped with construction of the athletic complex.
Former Park Place head of school Ted Poore, now assistant superintendent for the Madison County School District, was on campus when the dream of an athletic complex gained steam.
“When I first arrived at PPCA in the summer of 2014, I began to hear from parents and coaches who were passionate about wanting athletic fields to be built on campus,” Poore said. “Soon after, we conducted the first feasibility study and parent survey to determine a priority of needs and an estimate of how much money our clientele could expect to raise. The results of that study led us to conduct our first capital campaign to build much needed additional classroom space prior to investing in athletic facilities. One of the last projects that I helped initiate at PPCA was the fundraiser called Feed the Need. The proceeds of this campaign would focus on clearing the newly acquired, God provided, adjacent property to pave the way for athletic facilities to be built on campus. I am very excited to see these facilities became a reality in the near future.”
“The desire to have our own on-campus athletic facilities has been prayed for by school administrators, coaches, board members, parents, and students for many, many years,” said Renee Holm, who is the mother of two Park Place students, Hannah, a sophomore football and basketball manager, and Alex, a seventh-grade football and basketball player. “To see how God has answered our prayers is a humbling experience. We give all glory to God for the way that He has orchestrated every step needed to get to this groundbreaking ceremony.
“As a school board member, seeing this project come to fruition is exciting. We can sense the eagerness of the PPCA family as game day on our own campus gets closer and closer. As a parent of an athlete, we are so thankful to see the progress already being made on the fields. These facilities would not be possible without the support of the Park Place Baptist Church staff and congregation. What a blessing these facilities will be not only for the PPCA family but for all the families that will travel here to play.”
“We have looked forward to having our own home games on campus for a long time,” said Fallon McAlphin, a freshman cheerleader, fast-pitch softball player and track and field athlete. “I think it will provide better practices for all teams. I believe the sports at PPCA have a great future ahead. I have been at Park Place for 10 years. I have watched them prepare for this moment. I’m so thankful to finally have a field that’s ours. I think the student body will grow; the number of teammates will grow. Also, I’m sure we will win more games and be more successful.”