A $100,000 donation from the Jacksonville Jaguars will help give new life to the Yulee Sports Complex and more room for a growing community of children who want to play football there.
The Jaguars Foundation donation, matched with four times that amount in county funds, should have a new football field and other improvements done in time for summer football practice for hundreds of Nassau County children.
Jaguars cornerback Aaron Colvin and Nassau County officials broke ground Feb. 18 at the sports complex just north of the busy Florida A1A and U.S. 17 intersection. The growth that made that extra traffic and the new subdivisions and businesses built along those roads also forced the need for the expansion, county recreation facilities maintenance director Bob Knott said.
Meeting with Little League and Pop Warner sports association members last year, Knott said he learned that about 100 Yulee-area children had to be turned away from youth sports because there’s no more room. So he sought out funding options that led to the Jaguars Foundation, which is ultimately ensuring that it has professional football players 20 years from now by funding youth sports programs.
“We cannot take all the children who want to play ball. To me, that is disgraceful when you tell a child that they can’t play,” Knott said. “… When you take a small county like this we don’t have a lot for money and someone offers $100,000, it is a godsend. The good Lord was looking out for us and the Jaguars, you can’t believe how good they are to work with.”
Located just south of the Yulee Primary School on Lewis Road, the complex has a gymnasium, five baseball/softball fields, a football and multipurpose field, a baseball practice area, two tennis courts and a playground. The multipurpose field has drainage issues and isn’t suited for football, and the football field needed improvement, Knott said. When he learned that the NFL Foundation had a Youth Football Field Grant program that donates to sports associations through its teams, he approached the Jaguars Foundation. Foundation staff toured county sports complexes in Hilliard, Bryceville, Callahan and Yulee, then selected Yulee.
The multiuse field will be upgraded to a regulation Pop Warner football field with new grass, an announcing booth, grandstands and a concession stand. The project also will regrade the existing football field. Nassau County approved the use of $400,000 in county impact funds to complete the project, Knott said.
He said he “lucked out” when he contacted the Jaguars. The sports field is the 12th in the Jacksonville area helped by the Jaguars Foundation and NFL’s field grant program. Renovations should be done by mid-summer.
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549