Make Sports History in Lawton Fort Sill, Oklahoma
31 Aug, 2011By: Juli Anne Patty
A sports destination with major historical appeal, Lawton, Oklahoma unites the best in sports facilities and experience with unrivaled natural and historical attractions. And in Lawton, size is also on your side. With the cost-effectiveness and charm of a small town, but major metropolitan amenities, Lawton welcomes sports events of all sizes and budgets.
A pivotal location in America’s history, Lawton made its first mark on August 6, 1901, when the Kiowa-Comanche reservation was opened for settlement. A lottery distributed the land, and federal authorities selected the town site—a section of prairie south of the U.S. Army installation Fort Sill, which had been in existence since the 1860s—and named the town after General Henry W. Lawton, a Civil and Spanish American War hero.
As Oklahoma's third largest Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), Lawton is a prominent shopping, medical, recreational, educational and religious center for southwest Oklahoma. Lawton Fort Sill is also nestled just south of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. A 59,000-acre park of natural grasslands, the refuge provides habitat for bison, elk, deer and long horn. It also offers one of Oklahoma’s most stunning recreational and competitive sports opportunities. Over 22,000 acres are open to the public, offering water sports, hunting, hiking, sailing, fishing and camping. The scenic parklands of the Wichita Mountains are spectacular, but in Lawton, that’s just the beginning.
Lawton athletes spend a lot of time on the diamond, and the city has built a number of standout facilities to accommodate its citizens’ passion for their sports.
McMahon Softball Complex. “This facility has the most activity of all of our venues. It’s busy all year round,” says Reginald Seaton, leisure service administrator, City of Lawton Parks & Recreation. “McMahon is home to our spring and fall softball leagues, but throughout the summer and all year long, we also host ASA sanctioned softball tournaments, including national ASA championships.”
McMahon has been hosting national softball tournaments for more than a quarter-century, but Lawton is not a city to rest on past successes. With an $80,000 investment, McMahon started its 2011 summer tournament season with a host of improvements: new sprinkler systems, new bleacher coverings for shade, one entirely rebuilt field that includes an improved infield, new dugout and bleacher covers and other improvements, and completely reconstructed infields on the facility’s four other diamonds.
With 200 tons of a special dirt and clay mix, plus 10 tons of All-Pro Field Conditioner, the Lawton Parks & Rec team created the ultimate playing surface at McMahon. They also built a special crown into the fields that, along with the field conditioner, creates optimal drainage to decrease rainouts.
McMahon’s high performance infields are softer and prevent balls from making “bad bounces.” What’s more, McMahon’s fields offer consistent play throughout the entire facility, which is critical for highly competitive tournaments. The field configuration is another attribute that has given McMahon an impressive reputation.
“A lot of players like the unique way that the fields are arranged,” says Seato. “Because all of the fields point the same direction, whichever way the wind is blowing, it’s going to be the same for every batter on every field.”
It’s clear that McMahon’s layout, as well as the new enhancements, are a big hit with softball teams, too. The summer’s schedule is packed with six weekends of softball tournaments, from District 9 (Southwest Oklahoma) events to a National ASA Women's Slow Pitch Tournament on Labor Day Weekend.
Seaton and his team thrive on the busy schedule, contributing their considerable tournament expertise, as well as some serious hands-on help, to the events that call Lawton home.
"It’s definitely a full schedule, but we work ahead of time with all of our teams, as well as all of our hotels and community partners, to ensure that everything goes smoothly and everyone has a great tournament," says Seaton.
McMahon is just the beginning of the fine facilities in the Lawton Fort Sill area. Other venues include
· East Side Park: a four-field baseball complex
· Grand View Complex: an eight-field complex with a mix of baseball and softball fields, shared with Lawton Public Schools
· Ahlschlager Sports Complex: an eight-field complex (including three tee-ball fields), known around town as “17th and G”—the park’s the location
· Elmer Thomas Park Disc Golf Course: an challenging tree-filled alternating tee disc golf course measuring 5440 feet with 10 holes less than 300 feet, seven holes between 300 and 400 feet and one hole greater than 400 feet
· Elmer Thomas Park: home to a newly constructed Miracle League Field, gives kids with special needs the opportunity to experience the joy of sports activities.
Lawton Parks & Recreation also has an agreement with Lawton Public Schools to host a variety of basketball tournaments at the system’s many gymnasiums. Cameron University is another key sports partner, providing an outstanding home for a number of sports at its facilities, including Aggie Gym, an 1,800-seat gymnasium that is home to the Cameron basketball and volleyball teams, and the eight-court Streich-Henry Tennis Complex, the home courts of Cameron's nationally ranked men's and women's tennis teams.
With such a strong focus on offering the most exceptional sports facilities around, it’s no surprise that Lawton Fort Sill is home to a number of sports events that have become not just popular and successful, but also unforgettable.
Windy 100: The most beautiful 100-mile tour ride in the country, the Windy 100 gets its name from the race’s invisible, but fierce competitor: the Oklahoma wind. The Windy 100 winds through Medicine Park, Horizon's Blue Canyon Wind Farm and The Wichita Mountain Wild Life Refuge, showcasing wind farms, beautiful red clay canyons, and Oklahoma’s gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.
International Sports Festival: Held in conjunction with the annual International Festival, the International Sports Festival offers a weekend of sports, food, and music. The last weekend of September each year, the International Sports Festival brings competitors of all ages to Lawton to compete in various sporting events.
Roller Derby: In 2011, Lawton’s 580 RollerGirls hosted their first event, “April Rain Brings the Pain” to a sold-out crowd at the Great Plains Coliseum. Packing the stands on their first night out, the RollerGirls aim to empower women and create a league that helps foster community spirit.
Historical Landmark, Sports Legend
A truly great sports destination has a lot more to offer than just remarkable facilities, and Lawton Fort Sill is no exception.
“Lawton Fort Sill is nationally recognized for its diversity, and our many events and festivals, like the International Festival, celebrate that,” says Eboni Shaw, tourism director, Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce.
Lawton’s many attractions have a broad appeal, delivering the perfect pastime for every interest, from nature lovers to history buffs.
Comanche National Museum & Cultural Center. Enjoy national traveling American Indian exhibits from metropolitan museums across the United States, offering a glimpse of traditional cultural objects and detailed history about the Comanche people.
Fort Sill National Historic Landmark & Museums. Walk the grounds of this historic frontier army post and explore a furnished cavalry barracks, the 1872 guardhouse, the Warrior's Journey native American gallery and several others.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. Seek a peek at some of the refuge’s more than 50 mammals, 240 birds, 64 reptiles and amphibians, 36 fish species and 806 plant species and enjoy the scenic drive to the 2,500-foot Mt. Scott summit.
Lawton Fort Sill is also just as accessible as it is amazing. Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers Airport is just an hour and a half drive from Lawton, and the area is served by a regional airport as well. With more than 1,000 hotels in the area, from inns and bed and breakfasts to full service properties, finding the perfect place to stay is simple as well.
“It’s a great place to visit and a great community,” says Shaw. “We’re growing, but we’re keeping our small town feel. It’s a great time to play in Lawton Fort Sill.”
Find out more at www.lawtonfortsillchamber.com.