Waco for the moment has two stadiums named for high school football coaching legend Paul Tyson, a $9 million brand new one dedicated Friday and the original fronting Lake Air Drive destined to give way to a county-operated equestrian center.
Waco ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon invoked Tyson’s name during wind-swept ceremonies to introduce the new Paul Tyson Field at Waco High School. At least a hundred people showed up, greeted by smiling but shivering cheerleaders, elected leaders including Waco Mayor Dillon Meek and County Judge Scott Felton, and special guests including former Baylor University track coach Clyde Hart and Waco High graduate Wil London, a world-class sprinter.
The ceremonial ties to track and field were appropriate, since Paul Tyson Field’s running track is built to standards allowing it to host University Interscholastic League-sanctioned meets. Its infield is made of a rubberized material that promotes cooling, said Jarrod Sterzinger, director of architecture at the Austin-based O’Connell Robertson architectural firm.
The firm also was involved in designing the new Waco High School, whose estimated price is about $120 million and is part of a $355 million bond voters approved in November. The school would encompass 372,000 square feet and hold 2,150 students. Kincannon said Friday it will ensure students have access to the latest technology and to less-crowded learning areas.
As guests arrived at the new Paul Tyson Field on Friday, athletes meandered around the track, absorbing the atmosphere. Crews completed the facility none too soon. An event was scheduled at early afternoon, three hours after the formalities.
The new Paul Tyson Field includes a 2,000-seat grandstand, restrooms and a concession stand.
Speeches included Kincannon’s reference to Waco High’s championship heritage and stellar athletes, including many during Paul Tyson’s run as head football coach there. Between 1921 and 1927, his Tigers were almost unbeatable, compiling an 81-2-2 record and winning four state titles, according to a 2020 Tribune-Herald profile. The 1927 squad went 14-0 and outscored opponents 784-33 and is regarded as one of the best teams in Texas high school football history.
Now Waco High athletes will train and compete at the new facility bearing Tyson’s name. Nearby, new baseball and softball fields will emerge, their costs included in the $9 million package. McLennan County is contributing $2.4 million to the cause, money generated by a $35 million McLennan County bond voters approved in 2017, along with a 2% hotel tax and a 5% levy on car rentals to pay the bond back.
Waco ISD spokesperson Alice Jauregui said the district so far has received $1 million from the county, and will get more as the bond retirement fund grows. The county also spent about $32 million on the Base multipurpose center at the Extraco Events Center fairgrounds.
Also in the mix are new Lake Air Little League and Challenger League complexes. Those elements have prompted Waco, Waco ISD and McLennan County to get busily involved in land swaps in recent years. Construction could make the new Little League fields available by summer 2023.
“This is just a little glimmer of what’s to come in this community,” Waco ISD Trustee Stephanie Korteweg said during Friday’s ceremony. “We have such strong partnerships producing behind-the-scenes intentionality.”
Mayor Meek said Waco is a city of champions, its youngsters deserving of championship facilities. He contributions of others made Friday’s ribbon-cutting possible, including his predecessor, Kyle Deaver, former City Managers Dale Fisseler and Wiley Stem III, current City Manager Bradley Ford, and Kincannon, who took office three years ago.
He also challenged County Judge Felton to a race on the new track.
Felton said the next phase in the master plan is replacing what is left of the original Paul Tyson Field on Lake Air Drive with facilities “to host very large livestock and equine shows” now bypassing McLennan County.
He said he views progress as a longtime volunteer on the Heart O’ Texas Fair board. He said the improvements have been much talked about, but if the new Paul Tyson Field is an indication, the wait will be worthwhile.
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