DANVILLE — The Danville Area Community College Jaguars softball team now has a field of its own.
The school’s board of trustees has agreed to a five-year lease of the Winter Park diamond from the city of Danville.
The Jaguars softball team, one of the most successful sports teams at DACC, have been using the Winter Park diamond for 10 years but have been limited in making the facility their own.
“Coach (Matt) Cervantes has done an amazing job with kids having it ready for a college game,” DACC athletic director Tim Bunton said. “Maybe now they will have a little more flexibility; maybe they’ll be able to upgrade now with some new dugouts, scoreboard and fencing.”
Cervantes, a former University of Illinois baseball player, coaches the Jaguars with his wife, Kelley, a former Illini softball player.
Cervantes said the change might allow the program to start doing a little branding of the field.
“We’ve been there for 10 years. … I know it’s a community park, but to me I think it’s going to change the outlook to be the home of the Jaguars.”
Cervantes said an upgraded field can only help to continue to recruit quality athletes.
The team finished ninth in this year’s national junior college Division II softball championships in Spartanburg, S.C., a year after finishing seventh in the country.
“We always send our kids on to play (at the next level) or academically,” he said.
Cervantes said he and his wife were hoping to have a field developed near the school, but after a while that vision changed to work out a lease at Winter Park “and start making that our own.”
“We like playing there,” he said. “I think it’s special to all the kids who play on our team.”
Cervantes said among the changes could be new dirt, a permanent outfield fence and building batting cages and bull pens.
High-end security cameras will be added.
“We want to turn it into an avenue so that kids want to come here because of the field,” Cervantes said. “We’ve been successful without the flashiness of a field.”
Bunton said he believes signage could also be added to reflect DACC’s involvement.
“The whole thing is to improve it for DACC but the community as a whole down the line,” he said. “I think we’d like to upgrade it. Maybe have a softball or Little League championship out there.”
The DACC athletic department will maintain the field.
DACC President Stephen Nacco credited the city for its willingness to do the deal.
“It’s a city field that we’d just be users of it” in the past, Nacco said. “The city would handle maintenance, but it wasn’t really manicured” the optimal way a softball field should be maintained.
The facility also has a practice field.