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April 11, 2024 Play kicks off at Clay County Regional Sports Complex

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MIDDLEBURG – There were so many times the Clay County Regional Sports Complex could have easily been derailed by changing politics, challenging budgets and a worldwide pandemic.

But more than a dozen local and state leaders remained steadfast in turning 250 acres of scrubland into a premier destination for large-scale sports tournaments.

“More than a dozen tumblers had to fall into place for this to happen,” said former county commissioner Gayward Hendry.

The ambitious project on State Road 21 near SR 16 came to life on Friday, April 5, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included the original and current county commission that championed the $7 million project, as well as current Florida Rep. Sam Garrison, who said former Florida Sen. Rob Bradley and Fla. Rep. Travis Cummings, along with current Gov. Ron DeSantis made sure Phase 1 got past the finish line.

“My role in the legislature for the last couple of years was to get a little bit of extra money to make this from a good facility to a great facility,” Garrison said. “I want to thank first the governor. This doesn’t happen if he disagrees with the $2 million we were talking about in the 2020 budget. You might recall that we had a little thing called COVID when that budget was passed, so the state budget was slashed to the bone. We didn’t know what we were going to be living in. But the governor, because he loved the Clay County Fair so much, which is true, and because he trusted Travis and Rob, he kept that money in the budget. We owe a big thank you to Ron DeSantis. That’s not just window dressing.”

Garrison also said County Manager Howard Wanamaker and County Attorney Courtney Grimm also worked tirelessly to find grants.

The complex has eight multipurpose fields for soccer, lacrosse, flag football, field hockey, spike ball, and ultimate disk golf. It also has a three-quarter-mile walking trail, restrooms, and parking for 350 cars. In 2023, the county received $3 million in legislative matching funds and $2.5 million in legislative appropriations. The complex is a public/private partnership operated by the county. Depending on funding, there are plans for additional phases.

The complex is in County Commissioner Betsy Condon’s district, along with the newly opened Clay County Outdoor Adventure Park gun range. Along with Camp Blanding and Mike Ross Gold Head Branch State Park, more than 80% of her district will remain undeveloped.

“You couldn’t have asked for such a better day for this absolutely spectacular regional complex and park opening,” she said. “I’ll tell you, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I’m sure, just like you, I’m truly excited to be here for this Clay County Regional Sports Complex opening, brought together through a public/private partnership. Phase 1 of this complex was made possible through a $3 million matching grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and $2 million in legislative appropriations. The complex consists of eight multipurpose fields, restroom facilities, and covered shaded areas throughout a large parking area. As you can see, it is a beautiful three-quarter-mile walking trail. Access the fields through this area and along the ponds and sidewalks. Five of the eight fields are lit, making this complex ideal for hosting tournaments in the evening hours.”

The first will be the NFL FLAG Jaguars Regional Tournament on April 13. That will include 97 five-on-five flag football teams for children 9-through-13. The 11 division winners will advance to the national championships in Canton, Ohio.

A day later, the complex will host the NFL FLAG Jaguars Adults Regional Tournament.

Article written by Clay Today