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Lighthouse Christian begins work on sports complex

Officials expect practice fields to be ready by fall 2024

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Ground was broken Dec. 17 for the first phase of a multimillion-dollar sports complex in Rogersville.

Officials and supporters of home-school sports nonprofit Lighthouse Christian Athletics were on hand at the ceremony, which took place on a portion of the 25 acres expected to house the complex. The site fronts U.S. Highway 60, across the road from Fellowship Bible Church, located at 4855 S. Farm Road 205. The 501(c)(3) organization signed a 99-year land lease in 2022 for an undisclosed rate with the church, which owns the property, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Casey Haynes, executive director for the Lighthouse Chargers Booster Club, said the nonprofit is interested in eventually owning the 25 acres and has recently taken the first step in that process.

“We have a contract right now to buy our Phase I property, which is 11 acres,” he said, declining to disclose the price. “That will consist of the football field, track and practice fields.”

Haynes said RLC417 LLC is handling dirt work for a portion of the first phase, which will provide Lighthouse Christian with two practice fields for competitive football and soccer. 

“This will be ready for us to use next fall,” he said. “That’s setting the stage then for our future phases. We’re getting on the site. That’s been such a big push for us, to get the property bought, get the football fields graded, grass growing, irrigation in and that whole thing.”

The sports complex project has multiple phases. Aside from the practice fields, the first phase includes a football and track stadium with bleachers, concession stand and parking. Additional phases will bring in two baseball fields, as well as a 70,000-square-foot fieldhouse with four courts for basketball and volleyball. The fieldhouse also will include a weight room and locker room for all athletes.

Phase I is estimated at $3 million-$5 million. Haynes said it will likely be at the higher end of that estimate if the organization decides to install a turf field for the stadium.

“We’ll do the track and the stadium structure as we raise the money to do it,” he said. “We need a place to practice, and we need to start getting our people on this site to help with the excitement.”

Gift giving
Brett Williams, Lighthouse Christian’s football head coach, previously told SBJ the organization’s annual budget is around $150,000, and it offers sports programs for baseball, cheerleading, cross country, football, soccer, track and field, and volleyball. While roughly 700 home-schoolers are participating in the sports, officials say the nonprofit doesn’t have a consistent venue to hold practices and competitions, instead relying on renting public-school facilities to host home games.

“We’re finally going to have a home. Scheduling games and practices is a complete headache every year,” Haynes said. “You have to beg and borrow to use everybody’s facilities.”

Lighthouse Christian launched its fundraising campaign last year and recently surpassed the $500,000 mark, Haynes said, adding that included $150,000 in matching gifts from Peter and Jan Herschend. Peter Herschend is co-owner of Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., which owns Silver Dollar City and other attractions.

Herschend announced at the ceremony that he and his wife were donating another $25,000 matching gift to the project. Haynes said roughly $56,000 was raised during the event, which increased the fundraising total to $523,000.

While no architect or general contractor has been selected for the project, Haynes said Toth and Associates Inc. is donating its engineering services for the practice fields work.

Officials declined to disclose the value of the company’s services.

“They have been amazing,” he said of the Springfield-based company. “Without that, we wouldn’t be where we’re at.”

Toth and Associates Vice President Matt Miller said the firm has occasionally donated services to other educational entities, such as Springfield Public Schools and Discovery Center of Springfield Inc.

“Our vision statement is ‘Stronger communities through reliable engineering design.’ Helping the local communities around us, whether it be a municipality we work with or a school district within the cities, is one of our missions and goals as a company,” he said. “When we work with a group like Lighthouse Christian that’s trying to make a positive impact on the community and also trying to fundraise at the same time, sometimes those goals align where it makes sense to make our donation to a cause like that through providing engineering services instead of monetary support.”

Miller said the firm connected with the nonprofit because several employees home-school their children, and they participate in Lighthouse Christian sports.

The company’s help for the organization likely will extend beyond this year, he said.

“We’re hoping to continue that relationship on into the future as they move on to future phases of their development,” Miller said.

Up next
Although building the football and track stadium is likely the next component for the project, Haynes said it’s not a certainty.

“Everybody wants to know the order we’re going to build in. I tell everybody it depends on who gives us money to build,” he said. “If somebody steps up and says we’re going to buy the baseball property first, then we’re going to build baseball fields.”

After announcing plans for the sports complex last year, Haynes said he’s excited physical work is finally happening on the project site as 2023 concludes.

“We’re just so grateful for everybody that has been involved and their patience and money. It’s so exciting to see that we’re actually going to have our own land,” he said. “I don’t know of any other home-school organization that is working on building a sports complex for their people.”

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