For most of the visitors of Sycamore Park in Fort Worth, Texas, four old, worn-out tennis courts were nothing but an eyesore.
For Vaqueros FC Academy Director Mark Snell, however, these four abandoned tennis courts were perfect for creating a field for Vaqueros FC’s new youth academy.
“I actually found (Sycamore Park) on Google Maps and saw these four tennis courts that were rarely used,” Snell said.
As fortune would have it, these four courts met USSF 7v7 field size regulations, and from there, Snell, Vaqueros FC and the City of Fort Worth spent nearly two years working to transform the courts into a state-of-the-art soccer facility.
Once the project is completed in the next coming months, the Sycamore Park tennis courts will become a soccer pitch, featuring a new fence, shock and drainage pads and synthetic turf without sand or rubber pellets. While this renovation will be a major undertaking, Snell and Vaqueros FC have the backing of the city of Fort Worth, with the city and club reaching a financing agreement which will help fund the construction of the field.
The field will be home to the newly announced Fort Worth Vaqueros FC Academy, and Vaqueros FC will also organize and run adult 7v7 leagues which will help fund the academy.
Snell’s philosophy for the Vaqueros FC Academy is to provide opportunities for youth in the inner city to be able to play and learn the beautiful game.
“I’ve been watching games all over Fort Worth in independent leagues, and there are all sorts of unbelievable players,” Snell said, and noted that as of right now, these players would have to go all the way to Dallas to train with big clubs, something which Snell wants to change with the Vaqueros FC Academy.
While not every city is going to have four rarely used tennis courts to build a state-of-the art soccer facility on, Snell believes what the Vaqueros and the city have done with Sycamore Park can be replicated by cities and clubs across the country.
“Our situation is a little unique because we have these four tennis courts, but do I think someone could do this in a parking lot?” Snell said. “Absolutely. I think it’s something that people can mold to fit whatever area they are in.”
While the academy will field the four youngest age groups in its inaugural season, the Vaqueros FC academy will help the NPSL squad in several ways.
“The NPSL season is over the summer, but the academy will be 24/7, 365 days a year, so this will get our name out there,” Snell said. “And the ultimate goal is for these players in our youth team to feed into our NPSL team.”
With a new academy and a new home to go with it, the future for soccer in Fort Worth and for Fort Worth Vaqueros FC is looking brighter than ever, all thanks to creativity, ingenuity, and four old tennis courts.