STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — As people waited in the lobby of the Faith Academy of Marble Falls student life center, alumna and assistant track-and-field coach Mary Ann Nunnally turned to a visitor and enthusiastically asked, “Isn’t this exciting?”
“Do you know how long I’ve prayed for this? Nineteen years,” she answered.
“This” is phase one, estimated at $2 million of the total $5.9 million to be spent on the athletic complex at the small private Christian school. The first phase includes a new football field and track with pole vault, long jump, and triple jump pits.
On May 15, the academy hosted an official groundbreaking ceremony. Officials expect the football field to be ready for the upcoming season, when Faith Academy returns to playing six-man football.
Phase two includes a 1,000-seat home section, a 500-seat visitor section, a press box, and a film platform as well as baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, and a second gymnasium. Construction on the baseball and softball fields is scheduled to begin in December to be ready for the 2019 seasons, which open in February. Both squads have been playing their home games in Burnet the past few years.
Mary wasn’t the only Nunnally happy to stand in 90-degree heat wearing a hard hat and forcing a shovel into the ground of what will be the football field.
Her parents, Rebecca and Stuart Nunnally, were also there and thankful for those who attended the ceremony, including school staff, teachers, coaches, officials from Hellas Construction, which will build the facility, and, especially, the school’s alumni and current students.
“It’s really the start of a new era,” said Stuart Nunnally, chairman of the school’s board of directors. “We’ve longed for a beautiful and safe athletic facility for a long time. To see us launch into a new era, to see us have an athletic facility comparable to our academic buildings is a great plus for us.”
Phase one was made possible thanks to a generous donation from Rebeca and Ray Britton, who also grabbed a shovel during the May 15 ceremony.
“(The Brittons are) long-term partners who decided to make a very generous donation to our school and student-athletes,” Stuart Nunnally said. “They have huge hearts for us, our kids, and Christian education.”
The field will be built for 11-man football; however, Faith officials announced last fall the program would return to six-man beginning in 2018, so the new field will accommodate that switch, athletic director Randy Denton said. The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools member fielded a six-man team from 2000-2011 before moving up to 11-man.
Until new stands are built, fans will be able to sit in the bleachers that are currently at the school or bring lawn chairs, Nunnally said.
“We love being right there close to the action,” he said. “It’s fun for the fans and something to be said for it.”
Hellas Construction will install artificial turf on the football field and the track around it.
The turf is made of an organic infill of cork and coconut fibers and, according to Hellas, offers “superior playability and traction while keeping the field up to 40 degrees cooler than a black crumb-rubber alternative.” A shock pad underneath the turf is designed to offer more cushion for tackles and jumping.
“That’s one of the most unique properties on this field,” said Tiana Flores, Hellas vice president of development.
Stuart Nunnally was especially excited about the synthetic turf, noting it’s safer for players and much cooler than other surfaces.
“Initially, we intended to do natural grass, but after weighing all the options, we switched to turf because the turf we chose is such an advantage over other turfs of the past in terms of its resiliency and safety,” he said.
While the organic infill will have to be replaced after 8-12 years, Nunnally said the shock pad will last three turf life cycles.
A new drainage system will be able to remove 40 inches of water in 30 minutes, so if a heavy rain falls on game day, the contest can be played as scheduled.
The school is currently seeking funding partners for the project. For more information, contact Director of Development Donna Holland Wilcox at firstname.lastname@example.org or (512) 914-8479.
Nunnally said Faith Academy has several projects other than the athletic facility that need funding.
The school has plans to expand with the addition of a new building for kindergarten through fifth grade and a playground.
“Anytime we have a donor, whether it’s athletics or academics, we welcome their contribution,” Nunnally said. “We’re really dependent on benevolent givers.
“The beautiful thing about this is that Faith Academy students and families and students from all over Central Texas will use that (football field) no matter the time of day or year,” he added. “We thank God for this day.”
For more information about Faith Academy of Marble Falls, go to famf.org.