The Austin Lady Panther Softball team joined with EPISD and city officials for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of their new field at Memorial Park.
The $1.6 million Bond project, part of the historic modernization of EPISD, was made possible through an Interlocal Agreement between the District and the City of El Paso for the use and maintenance of the facility. The new softball field near the Rose Garden sits in walking distance from the beautiful Austin High campus — much closer than the team’s previous field at Ross Middle School.
“It feels more like home now,” senior and Panther pitcher Ruby Barron said. “It’s something to be proud of. I feel like we’ll get more girls out.”
Barron joined with catcher Nadyara Estien Fontarez to throw out the first official pitch to commemorate the opening of the facility, which features a new press box, concession, score board, dugouts, canopies and lighting among other amenities.
“I love it,” Fontarez said. “It’s so big. I can see just how many things we can do here training wise. Having a field means new beginnings.”
Coach Elizabeth Voldahl-Gonzalez hopes the facility – and its proximity to the high school – will draw more interest in softball and generate more pride in the program.
“This is a big deal for the girls. We struggled a little bit with the field being at Ross and there was a disconnect with the program,” Voldahl-Gonzalez said. “The facility makes a difference. It’s their place and their peers will get to watch them play because it’s closer to the school.”
The team already started working on sparking interest in their sport at feeder campus Crockett Elementary, which is directly across the street from the field. More than a dozen of the campus’ elementary-age girls joined in the ceremony getting a little taste of high-school softball. They stayed after the ceremony for a quick a lesson in running the bases before posing for pictures with the Austin athletes.
“We want to keep our little ones in our feeder pattern. With EPISD being open enrollment, we want to keep them in our feeder pattern and let them see what they can look forward to in just a few years,” said principal Cyndi Ponce. “Even though they are little, it’ll go fast.”
The city, which contributed $160,000 towards the construction of the new field. The city also bought the land where the previous field sat to build the Los Kingdom Water Park that opened this summer.
“It’s such a great beautification project and we’re so happy to be hosting Lady Panther’s here,” said District 2 city Rep. Alexsandra Annello. “This was a great partnership. I think both projects have come out really beautiful and have been great improvements for all of Central El Paso. I think this is the begin of many partnerships with the District. It makes sense for us to be working together and figuring out how we can help each other.”