Category Archives: Irving

Concealed carry now a reality at North Lake College

A state wide concealed carry policy for all Texas community colleges took effect on Tuesday, Aug. 1.

In June of 2015, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 11, which now permits License to Carry (LTC) holders to keep a concealed handgun on or about his or her person into any institution of higher education in Texas.

On Aug. 1, 2016, the legislation went into effect for all Texas four-year colleges and universities.

“We are prepared, and our students are prepared,” said Carole Gray, Dean of Disability Services, Veterans Affairs and Counseling Services at North Lake College. “We have information going out to student, facility, and staff. This is part of who we are now, and to predict the future wouldn’t do us any good. We can only wait and see.”

“The law does not allow ‘open carry’ on college campuses,” said Lauretta Hill, Dallas County Community College District’s (DCCCD) Commissioner of Public Safety and Security. “Open carry refers to the intentional display of a handgun, including the partially- or wholly-visible display of a handgun stored in a shoulder or belt holster. The law also does not allow the carry of rifles or shotguns on college campuses.

“In the future, students, facility, and staff can expect to see several changes regarding their security, including being required to wear identification name badges. This will also effect visitors who will be required to show identification at the front desk before walking campus grounds.”

Certain campus locations do not allow firearms such as child-care centers, polling places, sporting events, or any locations where grievance or disciplinary proceedings are conducted. The college prohibits the use, possession, or display of any illegal knife, club, or prohibited weapon that cannot be concealed.

Proponents of open carry believe arming the ‘good guys’ allows individuals to protect themselves and others in a world where bad guys carry guns.

“I feel that now it’s kind of better, because at least now we can protect ourselves if something happens, especially because of what happened recently,” said Ashley Gonzalez, a North Lake student, referencing a violent campus shooting in May which claimed two lives. “I believe as long as the students and facility are responsible and they know how to use it right and not play around with it, then they should be allowed to bring it here.”

Opponents of open carry are often quick to point out that statistically a gun owner is more likely to be shot by his own weapon than use it to defend himself or others.

“Our focus has been on compliance with the law and making sure that the college community understands what is allowed and what is not allowed,” said Dr. Christa Slejko, President of North Lake College. “Over the last year, we have held public forums to solicit feedback and questions from the community, the employees, and students. We’ve also had the opportunity to participate in the development of the DCCCD policy for implementation of the law.

“I think it means we will be adjusting to this new environment based upon our individual feelings about concealed carry. As you know, this is a controversial subject with proponents and opponents on both sides. In addition to complying with state law, it is also our role to be sure that our facility, staff, students and community understand the law and how concealed carry will look on a college campus. Above all, we don’t want this to be a distraction from our learning mission.

“The only part of the law that is open to local control is in the area of exclusionary, or gun free, zones. With input from the many constituents involved in our planning, the DCCCD Board approved as part of their policy, exclusionary zones. Exclusionary zones cannot be used to work around the intention of the law, but examples of approved gun-free zones including sporting events, the college Health Center, the Counseling Center and lab areas in which there are combustible materials.”

Irving ISD welcomes over 300 new teachers

Irving ISD welcomed nearly 330 new teachers to its ranks during the 62nd annual Back-To-School Luncheon presented in the Nimitz High School cafeteria on Wednesday, Aug. 2.

New teachers and professionals joined the staffs of every Irving elementary, middle and high school. They were welcomed to the district by members of the city council, school board, fellow teachers, and Superintendent, Dr. Jose Parra. 

“I can give all of you, as new staff members, the assurance that we will give you the support that you want, the feedback you deserve, and the students that you’re going to come to love,” Parra said. “Our kids will give you more than you could ever dream they could, if you give them that first. I think that’s the amazing thing about our students and our school district. They appreciate the smallest kindness and will always give you more than you think they can, if they think you care about them in the least.”

The event was sponsored by Michaels’. The company gave all the incoming teachers gift cards to help prepare their classrooms for the school year. The district also gave out its annual “Spirit Award” for the group with the most school spirit. This year’s recipients will be teaching at Britain Elementary School.

For many of these teachers, Irving ISD classrooms will be their first teaching positions. Emily Hartwig will be teaching 7th grade humanities at Ladybird Johnson Middle School. From a family of educators, Hartwig is looking forward to teaching in the same school district her father taught in years ago.

“Both of my parents are teachers and I’ve always been around education,” Hartwig said. “One day, I just started thinking about what I really wanted to do, and I liked helping kids, so that’s kind of where I landed. My dad actually taught for Irving ISD for 13 years. He loved it. He felt like they really backed new teachers and they make sure that they provide the resources to build teachers. Coming in as a new teacher, I wanted somewhere that would provide the resources and support me along the way. That’s why I chose Irving ISD.”

Hartwig enjoys teaching middle school students in particular, because she believes they are at an age where their teachers can really make a difference to their futures.

“I feel like they’re at a point where they’re starting to look towards the future and looking towards what they want to do as a career,” Hartwig said. “I feel like I can really help lead them down whatever path they choose and let them know that they can succeed however they want to with whatever path they choose.”

Incoming teacher, Jeremiah Fincher, has taught 6th through 8th grade for the last eight years. This year, he will be teaching Texas History, World History and PE at Ladybird Johnson Middle School.

“My whole family were pretty much educators: my grandparents, my mom, my sister, aunts, uncles,” Fincher said. “It’s basically what I’ve wanted to do my whole life.

“Irving is very unique. It’s in a big area and is a big town, but it’s really got a small city vibe to it.”

Jordan Schneider, another first-time teacher, will be teaching 8th grade English, language arts and reading at Crockett Middle School.

“I worked with youth in a really poor community and saw how teachers treated their students,” Schneider said. “It just wasn’t a really good environment, and I realized the students needed somebody who cared about them. It was too late for me to change my major, so I decided I was going to get my alternate certification, because I can’t complain about something if I don’t do something about it.”

Valley Ranch Library celebrates 50th anniversary of “The Outsiders”

The Valley Ranch Library hosted a 50s-style sockhop on Friday, Aug 4, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the influential young adult novel, “The Outsiders.”

Written by 16-year-old S.E. Hinton, the book was first published on April 24, 1967. It tells the story of Ponyboy Curtis and the conflict between two gangs in the 1960s in rural Oklahoma. Ponyboy and his brothers are the Greasers, a gang of low-income working class teens. Their rivals the Socs, or Socials, are wealthy teens from the other side of town. When one of the Socs is killed by a Greaser, Ponyboy’s life is changed forever as he learns death and pain can affect anyone, no matter what their background.

“It’s a story about social classes,” Annette Burford, youth librarian at the Valley Ranch Library, said. “It’s about bringing differences together. There’s no perfect lifestyle, there’s no perfect group of people, and I think the message S.E. Hinton wanted to get across is that everybody comes from a different walk of life, but everyone is basically the same. Everybody has problems, everybody has conflicts, everybody has the same emotions. It’s important for kids to understand that no matter what walk of life they come from, nothing should hinder them from doing what they want to do, regardless of their background.”

Although the book is 50 years old, Burford believes its message is just as relevant today.

“It’s really different [today] as far as teen angst and problems people go through,” Burford said. “But it‘s all part of life, and everybody goes through it.”

The book was considered highly controversial at the time of its publication. It was ranked #38 on the “American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-1999” for its portrayal of gang violence, underage smoking and drinking, and strong language. Despite the controversy, The Outsiders was adapted into a film in 1983 directed by Francis Ford Coppola and also had a TV series adaptation in 1990.

Mindy Ewing, a volunteer with the Valley Ranch library, saw the film when she was a teenager.

“I saw the movie for the first time in the theater when it was showing,” Ewing said. “It’s one of those things that sticks with you. All teens have conflict, no matter what clique you’re in. You’re not always a Greaser, and there’s not always knife fights, but there’s always some kind of clique conflict between teens. I thought it was encapsulating of what we were feeling without us being able to express it.”

In addition to being directed by Coppola, the film also boasted a cast of up-and-coming stars, including Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, and Diane Lane.

“Being that I saw [the movie] back then, I have grown up with all these actors,” Ewing said. “They’re very young, and it’s almost hard to realize that those people you’re seeing there are really famous actors now and that this was one of their first big breakout roles.”

The party was held as part of a tri-annual book party series held at Valley Ranch. The library held similar events this year for The Chronicles of Narnia in January and Alice in Wonderland in March.

“The parties are a great way to introduce classic books to a new audience, whether it is families who are new to the country or tweens and teens who haven’t yet encountered the book in school,” said Marianne Follis, the head librarian of Valley Ranch Library. “By creating a party, we give the books fun and memorable points of access which will hopefully stay with the attendees.”

Local Irving family fighting for paralyzed son

On the morning of July 14, Alexia Rafeedie received a call from her mother, Sandi Brown, saying there had been a family emergency. Alexia was asked to return home immediately. A hospital in Hammond, Louisiana had called Brown minutes earlier saying her son had been in an accident, but they could not give more information on his condition.

Alexia picked her mom up and together they drove over eight hours to Louisiana to learn what had happened. Sandi’s son, Patrick Rafeedie, 20, was driving his new motorcycle to work when a truck pulled in front of him, causing him to slam into the back. His upper body took much of the force of the initial blow before he flew into the air and landed hard on the pavement, sliding nearly 200 feet.

Most of Patrick’s ribs were either broken or fractured. Both of his lungs collapsed. His pelvis was broken, and he had no feeling from the waist down.

“They didn’t think he was going to make it,” Alexia said.

Paramedics worked on him for over 45 minutes before airlifting him to North Oaks Hospital in Hammond.

“Most of the time he recognizes me,” Sandi said. “He doesn’t know where he’s at. Sometimes he’s in Florida. It’s touch-and-go with what he remembers and what he doesn’t. We have to explain to him that he’s in a hospital. He doesn’t realize, and when he does, he gets a really terrified, scared look on his face.”

Patrick’s hands are restrained to prevent him from pulling out or breaking the medical devices keeping him alive. He has a trachea in his neck providing oxygen and a peg in his stomach feeding him.

“He’s pulled the peg out five times,” Sandi said. “He’s actually broken the tubes on the trachea twice, not just pulled it out but both times he’s actually broken the tubes.”

Patrick, who lost his older brother in 2009 to a car accident, just finished his sophomore year at Louisiana’s Southeastern University. A boy that Alexia describes as very family oriented and hard-working, he had recently started a job at a landscaping company to help pay for college.

For his mother, a State-Farm insurance agent that owns her own agency on MacArthur Blvd, keeping spirits high and still running the business has been a struggle.

“My daughter has been here as much as she can, but I need her at the office working,” Sandi said. Sandi has been at the hospital for over 26 days, and the hospital staff set up an air mattress in the waiting room for her.

The truck driver received a ticket for failure to yield at a stop sign. He was driving on a suspended license and has had a bench warrant out since 2012. At the time of the accident, he had no insurance on the vehicle and was driving four children.

“I’m working hard to get somebody to pick him up on the warrant that he’s had out since 2012,” Sandi said. “Then I’m waiting for this case to be put on the docket so I can try to pursue further charges.”

On Thursday, August 3 Patrick had back surgery to fix his fractured T4 through T11 and T1 spinal nerves. Sandi said he may need more surgery as they monitor each day.

Since the accident, Patrick has not recovered feeling from his waist down. He has received 19 units of blood and is on life support, but doctors told his family to remain optimistic.

“They’ve told us not to give up hope, but as of now it’s not looking good,” Sandi said. “My goal is to get him completely off the ventilator, to get him in the right state of mind, and to get his physical therapy started. That’s the goal before they’re able to even get him out of SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit).”

For now, the family has limited hospital visits to immediate family because Patrick contracted MRSA in his lungs, an infection caused by a staph bacteria resistant to many antibiotics. He also fights fevers every night from a rare super bug in his lungs that doctors have yet to identify.


Although the family has insurance, most medical providers will cover up to a certain amount, leaving the family to foot the bill for the remaining cost.

“Out-of-pocket expenses he’s incurred so far on 23 days is $32,000,” Alexia said. “That’s not including what health insurance is going to cover. That’s out of pocket that we have to pay.”

Patrick is set to be in ICU for a few more weeks before moving to another room. The price of staying in an ICU varies, but generally is over $5,000 a day.

Although Patrick was initially air lifted just five miles from the site of the accident, the cost of that flight alone could easily be thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, medical flights are not required to report fees, and they can range from $12,000 to as much as $25,000 per flight.

Sandi was told by the hospital staff that the medical flight will not be covered by insurance. Now, the family hopes to save money so they can air lift Patrick to TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation and Research in Houston, one of the leading rehab facilities in the country. A medical flight to Houston from Hammond could cost as much at $20,000.


Patrick’s family made the decision to make their private struggle public. They hope that by telling their story, they can raise money for his rising medical costs. The money raised will help cover continued care after hospitalization and living expenses after rehabilitation. The family’s GoFundMe page has a goal of $50,000.

“The funds will go for anything that insurance doesn’t cover as far as any medical equipment he’s going to need,” Sandi said. “He’s going to need a wheelchair. He’s going to need ramps whenever he does come home. He’s going to need living expenses and getting readjusted to being paralyzed.”

A family friend has set up a blood drive at Sandi’s office on August 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 717 North MacArthur Blvd to store blood for the Irving community. The blood won’t assist Patrick directly, but is a way for Brown and her family to honor his name.

“With the amount of blood that has been given to Patrick, I want to do something for our local community,” Sandi said. “Without the blood that Patrick’s been given, he wouldn’t be here.”

Mark your calendar!

Back-to-School Nights
August 15-18

Each campus in the district will host a back-to-school event that will give families and students the opportunity to meet teachers, drop off school supplies and become familiar with the school. In addition, those who have not completed all steps of the registration process can do so at these events. The schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, August 15 – high schools, 5 to 7 p.m.

Wednesday, August 16 – middle schools, 5 to 7 p.m.

Thursday, August 17 – elementary schools, 5 to 7 p.m.

Friday, August 18 – early childhood schools, 2 to 4 p.m.

School Supply Drive
August 18, 6 – 7:30 p.m. 

First Baptist Church in Irving (403 S. Main Street) will be having a School Supply Drive to help provide students with the tools they need to succeed. Parents of Kindergarten – 5th grade students may pick up a free package of school supplies, while supplies last. 

Educational scholarships awarded to children of Irving Police Department

Fran Mathers of Via Reál Restaurant awarded collegiate scholarships from the Pat Mathers Scholarship Foundation to six extraordinary children of Irving Police officers On Wednesday, July 19. The foundation awarded a total of $34,000 in tuition scholarships for the 2017‐2018 academic year to Michaela Braly, Makayla Moore, Mikayla Burres, Connor Vincent, McKenna LeCroy, and Tori Zettle.

The selection of scholarship winners comes from an applicant pool of children from Irving Police officers and civilian employees. They are all college bound or current college students who excel in academics, community service, extracurricular activities, and who exhibit “above and beyond” ambitions to reach their goals. 

The mission of the Pat Mathers Scholarship Foundation is to help further the education of the children of Irving Police Officers and to ease the financial burden on their parents. Funding is raised at Via Reál’s Pat Mathers Scholarship Foundation Fundraiser which takes place once a year at the local restaurant. This year’s upcoming fundraiser is scheduled for Aug. 6, 2017.  

The University of Dallas will match Pat Mathers Scholarship Foundation scholarships for students enrolled in the University of Dallas. 

Fran Mathers, owner of Via Reál Restaurant, began the foundation in 2007 in memory of her late husband, James Patrick Mathers, who was a great supporter of the Irving Police Department.

SOURCE Pat Mathers Scholarship Foundation

One Act Play inspires youngsters to perform

The Irving Park’s Recreation Centers continued a time honored tradition by inviting friends and family members to attend the 53rd annual One Act Play Competition, which was presented at the MacArthur High School auditorium on Friday evening, July 21.

During the event, young actors and actresses from six recreations centers performed on stage in front of an audience while demonstrating their acting, singing, and dancing abilities. Students from the ages of seven to seventeen practiced twice a week during the summer and prepared plays encompassing a variety of genres, from fantasy to drama to Dr. Seuss.

Karlie Ulloa acted in “Daisy-Head Mayzie” produced by Lee Park Recreation Center.

“We practiced an hour and a half for twice a week,” Ulloa said. “There are also a lot of kids, so it’s really fun to interact with them. When you think about it, it’s like a big family with all of the cast and directors included.”

The five judges scored each performance on presentation, delivery of lines and clarity of story, correct speed and length, and originality.

The 2017 One Act Play Competition winners are as follows:

Best Play – Snow White Lite by Northwest Park Recreation Center

Runner-Up Best Play – Bonding by Senter Park Recreation Center

Best Actor – Silas Whitworth from Senter Park Recreation Center, Play: Bonding

Runner-Up Best Actor – Vgom Jain from Mustang Park Recreation Center, Play:  When Two Superhero Universes Collide

Best Actress – Regina Lubbers-Reyes from Northwest Park Recreation Center, Play: Snow White Lite

Runner-Up Best Actress – Helja Estrado from Northwest Park Recreation Center, Play: Snow White Lite

Honorable Mentions:
Danielle Jackson from Georgia Farrow Recreation Center, Play: Guest in the Barracks

Angel Franco from Northwest Park Recreation Center, Play: Snow White Lite.

Summer Games provide friendly competition


The tennis courts at Irving High School were filled with children early Monday morning, July 24, to kick off the first week of the annual City of Irving Parks and Recreation Summer Games. The two week competition features a variety of challenges including softball, chess and dodgeball for people ages 11-17. Challengers are separated into two groups: youths (11-14) and teens (15-17). The top three winners from each age group receive a gold, silver, or bronze medal.

“Some kids will start to collect medals for every event they’re in, and they wear them all week long for whichever event they won,” Della Jones, a Senior Recreation Specialist at Lee Park Recreation Center said. “We really want the kids to communicate and socialize with other kids, but the main thing is to keep them very active in the summer and to keep them coming to the rec center. Once they get to a certain age, they think they’re too old for the rec center, and we want to make sure they keep coming back to us.”

All seven recreational centers in Irving were represented, as participants began training at the beginning of the summer for each game they signed up for.

“We practiced every week from 4-5 and 5-6,” Joshua Buckett, a Lee Park participant, said. “We practiced everything that we play in the summer games like volleyball, basketball, and dodgeball during the week. The summer games are a lot of fun, and the practice really helps prepare you for the actual tournament.”

Buckett has participated in the summer games for the past three years and has won medals in dodgeball, football and volleyball. This year, Buckett decided to try a new sport.

“This is my first year playing tennis. I didn’t know I was going to be this good,” Buckett said. “I wanted to try something new just to compete with other kids, and it sounded like fun.”

Day one of the summer games began with a tennis tournament with over 20 participants. Each player was guaranteed two rounds of play.

“We did not expect this many kids for tennis,” Jones said. “This is the biggest turnout we’ve had and have a lot of kids return each year. Some of the teens, once they get to a certain age, start working so they can’t participate and play like they used to. It’s mostly youths who are returning players.”

The games continued with dominoes and chess in the afternoon at Lively Pointe.

Mustang participant Tharun Sobanbabu (13) was one of the few tennis players that went on to pla chess. 

“I liked tennis because it was more active,” Sobanbabu said. “It was also the hardest, because there wasn’t a lot of competition for chess like there was for tennis.

“I don’t really like just staying at home. I wanted to do something with my summer and I like sports. I’m good at sports, so I wanted to do the summer games.”

Sobanbabu placed second in youth tennis and first in chess. He is signed up to participate in every single sporting event except dominoes.

“It was a lot of fun because everyone got together to play sports, and there was a lot of good people showing good sportsmanship,” Sobanbabu said. “I would love to come and play again next year.”

“Human Library” comes alive at West Irving Library

Library patrons had a unique opportunity to ‘borrow’ people during the “Human Library” presented at the West Irving Library on Saturday, July 22.

The Human Library project invited individuals to ‘check out’ real people from various ethnic, social, and marginalized communities, and ask them questions. The project has featured a wide variety of humans, from sexual abuse and traumas survivors to Muslims and transgendered individuals, all with the purpose of educating the community and helping to dispel harmful stereotypes surrounding those groups.

The event was held as part of the library’s city-wide Summer Reading Challenge and this year’s theme was “Build a Better World.”

“The Human Library was started in Denmark and it’s designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudice by talking to people who have dealt with them,” said Linda Opella, librarian at West Irving Library. “Everyone has a story to tell, and this is just a way for them to tell their story to other people and other people can say, ‘Oh, that’s really interesting. I never thought about it that way,’ or ‘I never looked at it that way.’ Hopefully, it can challenge stereotypes and prejudices and change minds.”

This was the first Human Library event held at the West Irving Library and featured three local individuals. Sylvia Nordeman, a communication specialist for the library, was one of the storytellers at the event. Nordeman suffered two miscarriages before giving birth to her son, all within a span of two years. She wanted to share her story to help people understand what it is really like to go through a miscarriage and how they can help those who have experienced it.

“When I had my miscarriage, I felt like there were so many things that people didn’t understand about it,” Nordeman said. “People were very reluctant to talk about it. People just wanted to sweep it under the rug. I thought it would be so much better if we could have an open conversation about it.”

Patrick Booth, a drug addiction counselor from Lewisville, Texas, walked away from his job in the corporate world to travel the world as a missionary. Booth has visited 11 different Latin American countries and has written a book about his adventures titled The Long Road Home.

“When I sold my business and went out into the mission field for a year visiting those 11 different countries, I was blogging. At the end of it, I just felt that this story was bigger than me,” Booth said. “I put it down into a book specifically so I could share it. I want to continue to share it because my story is really beyond me.”

Susan Sullivan, a web designer who currently lives in Argyle, Texas, walked away from the corporate world to start a farm where she raises chickens and bees. Through her story, Sullivan hopes people will gain more interest in learning where their food comes from.

“I like telling my story because I like to talk to people about the food they eat, where it comes from, teach people that you can eat food that’s ethical and sustainable, and that animals don’t really need to suffer,” she said.

Although the stories were different, all three participates learned others were just as happy to share their own stories.

“It was really nice to be able to hear not just their interest in my story, but also hear how it connects to their individual stories,” Booth said. “I really feel like everyone has a story that they can share, so it was nice to be able to hear their inspiration and be inspired by them as well as to share my story and let them be inspired by me.”

Irving recruits new sports complex


Perhaps the only person more excited than Irving city officials to attend the July 20 hard hat tour of the new Drive Nation sports complex was the facility’s owner, Jermaine O’Neal.

“Obviously it’s been a long process to get to this point,” O’Neal said. “It’s taken a lot of long nights and a lot of long days, and to be honest, a lot of people thought it couldn’t be done.”

That process began two years ago, when the five-time NBA All-Star received a call from his Cowboys season ticket account manager. O’Neal was unsure if he was going to renew his tickets, because he had been struggling to get his sports complex idea off the ground in Keller, Texas. His account manager connected him with John Terrell, Vice President of Commercial Development at DFW International Airport and former Mayor of the city of Southlake.

The game changer, O’Neal admits, was this area panned out both athletically and academically for his daughter. Located off Rental Car Drive near DFW airport, the 85,000 square foot complex is designed for all ages and tailored toward youth athletes. It includes 6 basketball courts, 8 volleyball courts, a turf field, batting cages and pitching tunnels, a sprinting track, weight room, hydrowork training room, as well as offices, team meeting rooms, and a kitchen.

“This is a corporate headquarters,” O’Neal said. “I don’t believe a facility for amateurs should look like a box gym. When they walk through these doors, we want them to feel as if they’re walking into the Cowboys arena, as if they walked into the Mavs headquarters.”

Construction on the $10.4 million, 16-acre youth sports facility started roughly eight months ago and is slated to open in the middle of October.

The complex is managed by Sports Facilities Advisory: Sports Facility Management (SFA and SFM) and focuses on performance training, nutrition, and wellness education. This headquarter facility will incorporate some of the latest sports science and technology including a shot tracker where amateur and professional athletes can monitor their field goal percentages or free throw percentages. O’Neal says the technology is used as a compliment to helping kids grow mentally as well as physically.

“Kids are always going to get bigger, stronger, and faster by nature because they’re getting older, but it’s that mental process that sets you up for everything,” O’Neal said. “If your mentality is all wrong, it doesn’t matter whether you can shoot, dribble, or play the game, so we want to create this environment where life lessons and athletic lessons are the exact same thing.”

At the start of 2016, DFW airport’s commercial real estate team, led by Terrell, informed the city of Irving they had a prospect looking to build a facility within Irving’s city limits. O’Neal’s team was also looking at five other cities including Keller and Frisco.

“Jermaine was looking at other outlying areas,” said Jay Ory, director of business development and marketing for Drive Nation, “but with this being on the Dallas-Fort Worth airport grounds, we thought it would be centrally located to attract not only Dallas-Fort Worth participants from surrounding communities but also out-of-towners that come in for these elite tournaments. Just imagine, you can fly right into DFW airport and there’s a cluster of Irving hotels surrounding the location. It’ll be very easy and convenient for these tournament participants and families to get to Drive Nation.”

Upon hearing of O’Neal’s project, the Irving Chamber of Commerce, city officials, and Irving ISD acted quickly to sit down with O’Neal and the Drive Nation team to learn more about the project.

“Any time we have a business that comes to the city of Irving, we ask them how we can help,” Councilman Dennis Webb said. “It’s their vision, but we want to partner with them and assist, because it’s going to benefit us. We want them to be successful.”

Drive Nation estimates a $13.1 million dollar economic impact for the DFW areas and surrounding communities. The real value, O’Neal says, lies in education and that begins with the parents.

“The parent becomes paralyzing for the kid,” O’Neal said. “They want their kid to be so good, they think their kid is Michael Jordan and the kid can barely dribble. Some people grow early, some people grow late. That’s mentally, physically, emotionally. It’s important for parents to be patient. If the kid is working, don’t drive him or her to the ground where they don’t want to play anymore.”

For at least the first year, O’Neal will serve as the complex’s basketball director.

“I’m a very aggressive personality when it comes to doing it right,” he said. “There’s no concessions to a talented kid that wants special treatment because he or she can play. So we’re going to be as I lead. In order for us to be the best version to get to what we’re trying to do, we’ve got to have great leadership.”

Drive Nation was founded in 2016 by O’Neal in Dallas as a grassroots youth sports organization that also hosts a basketball skills academy and an AAU team. They have partnerships with some of the largest youth sports providers in the country including Nike and AAU, the largest amateur sports organization in the country. By hosting national tournaments including USA volleyball tournaments, AAU tournaments, and Nike EYBL, some of the top high school and college players and coaches in the country will come to the area. That economic drive, Webb said, will help propel other new building projects.

“(This venue) is going to draw people in who then can go to our music factory,” Webb said. “Once they get here, they can go right down the street and visit this world class music factory and entertainment venue.”