By Ken Lay

A little rain couldn’t dampen the festivities at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Emerald Youth Foundation Sansom Sports Complex.

The facility has been open since April and has already hosted the KIL Girls Soccer Jamboree, Eric Berry’s annual youth football camp and is home to the Knoxville Force and Lady Force semi-pro soccer teams.

“We had a soft opening in April and we still have some construction going on,” said Emerald Youth Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Diggs. “We’ve been meaning to officially open but we got busy playing soccer.

The ribbon cutting on Monday, Nov. 9 went on as planned despite some steady rain showers. The ceremony was held in the pavilion, which houses one of the facility’s artificial turf fields.

The Sansom Sports Complex is located on Dale Avenue and is in the former home of H.T. Hackney. When Hackney relocated, Bill Sansom and his family purchased the property and donated it to Emerald Youth Foundation.

“I would like to say a sincere thank you to Mr. Sansom. His family and Mayor [Madeline] Rogero for being here tonight,” Diggs said. “This facility provides opportunities for children all over Knoxville to play sports.

“We have turf fields, a pavilion and field house and we have construction of a grass field underway. Emerald Youth Foundation is helping kids from all over the region. We were happy to have Eric Berry do his youth football camp here. We were happy to have the jamboree here and we’re happy that Fulton and Austin-East have soccer activities here. We’ve hosted kids from Blount County, Oak Ridge and Morristown and we couldn’t have done that without this gift.”

Ground breaking began on the Sansom Sports Complex in 2013. The facility, which provides world-class playing fields for soccer, lacrosse, flag football and performance training opened in April.

The complex has hosted events since and Diggs said it currently serves about 400 youth athletes and has hosted as many as 1,000 in its first six-plus months of operation.