Celebrating Athletic Excellence: Lonoke County’s Game Time at The Grounds

By Dr. Robert Reising

“If you can play it indoors, you can play it here.” This truth was communicated in a 2023 late-fall publicity announcement about Arkansas’s newest sports mega-facility. “Game Time at The Grounds” opened in Cabot in early May, and its earliest successes foreshadow boundless popularity and excitement in the years ahead. The innovative structure is proving to be a haven for fans and athletes alike. The facility features  family-accommodating settings with futuristic designs and versatile-use spaces that will permit the best in both sports competition and recreation. 

Photos by MIke Kemp

Located inside the city limits of Cabot, just minutes off Exit 21 near Interstate 57, the facility is within steps of ample parking, including 600 parking spaces at its front and on both sides. Welcoming visitors is a sizable, comfortably furnished lobby, with seating for casual chatting and socializing–ideal, also, for resting and refreshing between contests. Nearby, awaiting the thirsty and the hungry, lies a full-service cafe offering attractive meals for entire families, as well as fan-favorite ballpark treats usually found only at outdoor sporting events.

The visionary structure encloses 57,900 square feet, housing six full-sized high school basketball courts that transition into 12 full-sized volleyball courts or 18 pickleball courts. Unique wall-to-wall flooring reduces the possibility of injuries to players, regardless of age. 

Basketball goals and volleyball nets are ceiling-mounted, permitting adjustable goal and net heights. Divider curtains—84 by 30 feet—individualize all courts and walkways, allowing for easy separation of games.

Neighbor to the entrance of the ultra-modern edifice is a large indoor turf area for baseball, flag football, football, softball and other sports historically played outdoors. An additional 46,000 square feet holds two indoor soccer fields; close by are four baseball batting-cage tunnels, each 12 feet wide, 10 feet tall, and 70 feet long. Lining a 225-foot walkway on both sides are 8-foot seamless Infinity Glass walls that invite and facilitate spectator viewing.

Additional rooms are reserved for parties or private functions for local or area community groups. Yet another specialty room serves photographers, amateur or otherwise, desiring selfies or group shots. Completing the array of rooms in the complex are a conference room and 15 dedicated offices that are scheduled to be built.

Initial—late May—reports on attendance at “The Grounds” were, indeed, heartening. Travis Young, General Director from the Cabot Parks and Recreation Commission, and Nick Hoffman, Facility Manager, recently revealed in conversation that in just one three-hour period, the facility hosted 400 athletes on the six basketball courts, viewed by no fewer than 800 enthusiastic fans.

Travis Young, general director of Cabot Parks and Recreation and Kelly Lewis, assistant director of Cabot Parks and Recreation, are proud of the facility.

Simultaneously, they reported that during the following 12 months, 30 weekends had already been totally booked for tournaments. To be hosted are title-seeking competitors from four sports: basketball, volleyball, pickleball—and, yes, wrestling. Clearly, geographic variety will characterize the teams to be seen in action, including at least one representing Memphis. 

Clearly, too, Young and Hoffman are optimistic about the future: in the latter’s words, “I see this facility bringing attention and revenue to the city of Cabot. It will also help to grow Arkansas sports to the next level.” While echoing Hoffman’s sentiments, Young delighted in emphasizing how local-friendly and family-friendly The Grounds will be, and thus how popular it will prove.                                                                                                                                         

“Families who have multiple kids in school [athletics can cease] running to multiple gymnasiums and travel to just one,” Hoffman said. A filled facility, he reasoned, would translate into a revenue-acquiring one.

Nor is the fascinating 128,000-plus-square-foot facility destined to stand alone forever. Months ago, when seeking funding for the land now nestling the innovative structure, the City of Cabot and its Parks and Recreation Commission thought long-range by acquiring more than 230 acres that will feature a myriad of attractions for indoor and outdoor enthusiasts alike. On the horizon are a pump track, running and walking trails and mountain bike trails.

Both men concede that there is still much to plan, dream and build at The Grounds. They invite public participation. The “expansive park” they envision is but in its infancy—but what an excellent infancy it is proving to be!

Bob Reising