The new owners of Jacksonville’s all weather turf baseball fields are back in full swing. Future Champions Sports complex on the northwest end of Jacksonville has begun hosting baseball and softball tournaments again as Illinois moved into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan authored by the Pritzker Administration.
Kristin Van Aken-Jamison, one of the co-owners of the complex, says that the complex has been busy since reopening, hosting a 70-team tournament on their first weekend they were allowed to be open under Phase 4 on June 26th. “We’ve anxiously been awaiting this moment for weeks. It’s been difficult because the way the Restore Illinois plan has unfolded. There has not been a lot of clear indication as to when the different phases would begin and end. We are just thrilled that we finally got to Phase 4 and we can have official tournament play.”
Jamison says the complex is taking extra precautions to accommodate players and spectators as well as their staff: “Of course, we have hand sanitizer throughout the ballpark, access to running water, restrooms. We are recommending people wash their hands often. You’ll notice signs all over the park just reminding people to keep their social distance as well as wear a mask if they feel as though they need to do so. We have asked coaches to make sure their players do not have any COVID-19 symptoms prior to coming to the ballpark. Of course, there is not the traditional shaking of hands after a game. Now, the tipping of the hat has become the common sign of respect after a game.”
Jamison says the complex is fortunate to have 28 acres to allow for people to maintain physical distance. Jamison says the large complex also allows for the games to operate at full capacity with no restrictions on crowd size. She says the complex isn’t worried about spitting since the complex already has a prohibition against gum and sunflower seed usage on the campus. According to Jamison, the traditional gum and seeds make the all-weather surface deteriorate and hard to maintain.
Jamison says the booking of tournaments have been taking on a more regional appearance. She says many teams aren’t as willing to travel outside of the state or their region due to COVID-19 concerns. “We are noticing regionally that people are wanting to stay a little closer to home. Many of the teams coming to tournaments now and in the future would have likely traveled further. They would have likely gone to Nashville, Memphis, or Indianapolis and have instead stayed closer to home. It’s helped us adopt a more regional approach in terms of the teams visiting. I think, overall, it will help maintain the safety of Morgan County residents and the spectators that come here.”
Jamison says that she has spoken recently with Brittany Henry, head of the Jacksonville Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and plans were made as early as June 22nd to begin accommodating visitors to Jacksonville for the tournament. Jamison says that she’s already heard of local hotels and motels beginning to see higher rates of usage. She hopes that the tournaments will help lead to a successful rest of the summer as the state restarts after COVID-19 restrictions.