Progress Continues on Sansom Sports Complex

Construction of the Sansom Sports Complex in downtown Knoxville continues throughout the summer.

Lights were turned on for the first time the evening of June 9, and while much work is to be done -- Emerald Youth hopes to have children playing soccer in late fall -- it was a great moment to see the bright lights in concert with a beautiful Downtown Knoxville skyline.

The H.T. Hackney Company employees and The Sansom Family are developing the sports complex to serve thousands of inner city young people and bring investment to the City of Knoxville’s Downtown North Redevelopment area. Bill Sansom is CEO of Knoxville-based H.T. Hackney, one of the largest wholesale grocery distributors in the U.S.

Emerald Youth Foundation will oversee and operate the sports complex, to be on a 14-acre parcel of property near World’s Fair Park, once occupied by an H.T. Hackney warehouse.

The Sansom Sports Complex will provide world-class playing fields and facilities for soccer, lacrosse, flag football and performance training. Primary users will be the children and teens who attend Knoxville’s urban schools, said Steve Diggs, executive director of Emerald Youth.

“We are overjoyed. This complex will provide an environment where Emerald Youth can minister to urban young people through sports,” Diggs said. “This will greatly increase their opportunities to participate in physical activities. Urban kids are often left out of sports because they don’t have a place to play or resources to pay expensive fees.”

The project will transform a vacant industrial site bordered by Dale Avenue on the north, the Norfolk Southern Railway tracks on the south, Seventeenth Street on the west, and the Western Avenue viaduct on the east. Located near the junction of I-40 and I-275 downtown, the land is centrally located, level and nearly ideal for playing fields.

“The Sansom Sports Complex is a welcomed addition to our city. It will provide additional playing fields where our youth can be active and will help revitalize the area. Bill Sansom and the Sansom Family have opened their hearts to our community in a way that will greatly benefit the lives of our boys and girls,” Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said.

The first field, pavilion and field house should open by late fall 2014, and the last two fields should be completed by summer 2015. When complete, the unique complex will include three synthetic turf fields, a pavilion covered turf field, and a 5,000 square foot field house with a performance-training center. Baseline Sports Construction of Knoxville is the builder.

Sansom is paying for construction of the complex, and Emerald Youth will fund the yearly operating costs. Emerald Youth will hire a sports complex staff, to include a complex manager, director of soccer coaching, and sports performance trainer.

Sansom said he is a longtime admirer of Emerald Youth’s mission of ministry through sports teams, which now include basketball, baseball, volleyball, swimming and soccer. Sansom said he hopes to correct a shortage of playing fields for urban youth. 

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