With about a dozen all-star venues, a vibrant downtown and a bounty of cultural and family-friendly attractions, Cleburne is one of Texas’ most notable destinations for hosting sporting events. Conveniently located about 30 miles south of Fort Worth, Cleburne is near major thoroughfares and easily accessible via the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport as well as Amtrak service. If you’re looking for small-town Southern charm but with plenty of resources and amenities, Cleburne is the ideal spot for your next sporting competition, including baseball, football, soccer, volleyball and even bull riding.
With the motto “This is Texas,” Cleburne is a shining example of the Lone Star State’s love and celebration of athletics.
The Depot at Cleburne Station is one of the city’s most notable venues. Home to the Cleburne Railroaders of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, the stadium has more than 1,750 fixed seats. The state-of-the-art stadium also boasts luxury suites that offer panoramic views of the field in climate-controlled comfort. For special celebrations, host an event at the exclusive Classic Club, with indoor and balcony seating. Other unique gathering places include the outdoor party deck, located on the stadium’s second level overlooking the first base line.
In addition to the Railroaders, the stadium has hosted the NCAA baseball championships for the Heartland Conference as well as the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball championship. The Depot can also host football, cheer/dance, boxing and wrestling events.
Another popular venue is the expansive and multipurpose Cleburne Sports Complex. Situated on a 90-acre site, the complex is the city’s largest recreation center, with seven baseball/softball fields, 20 soccer fields and two football fields. Other attractions include two playgrounds, batting cages and four pavilions.
One of the city’s newest venues is the Cleburne High School Jeff Cody Arena, which opened in August 2019. The 2,700-seat arena hosts basketball, volleyball, cheer and dance competitions. As part of a renovation project, the arena replaced the high school’s old Jeff D. Cody Gymnasium, which now serves as the second sub-varsity gym and a secondary practice gym. Over the past few years, the high school has also added new baseball and softball fields, as well as a turf football and soccer field with a track, which opened in the summer of 2018.
Another option for events like cheer and dance competitions is the Cleburne Conference Center. This modern, 45,000-sq.-ft. facility has multiple meeting rooms, three commercial kitchens and a 297-seat Performing Arts Center.
Elsewhere around Cleburne, you’ll find attractions like Splash Station. The 85,500-sq.-ft. outdoor facility has an eight-lane competition pool for swim meets and tournaments. There are also waterslides, a lazy river, a climbing wall and spray pad. In the winter, a dome goes up over the heated competition pool to make it available for winter aquatic activities.
With this being Texas, Cleburne has a facility to promote traditions of the Old West. Launched in 1951, the 4,500-seat Johnson County Sheriff’s Posse regularly hosts professional rodeos, including the annual PRCA Rodeo, a weeklong event with saddle bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling and other rodeo sports. There’s also an indoor roping area for 300 guests.
One of Cleburne’s many benefits as a host city are all the great sites and attractions you can enjoy once the competition is over. The charming and historic downtown is a great place to start, with more than 40 shops, numerous museums and theaters, and friendly restaurants and cafes serving casual fare like hamburgers, hot dogs, baked goods and delicious home cooking.
For a little retail therapy, you can find a treasure trove of unique and vintage items including furniture, gifts and architectural items at stores like Red Horse Antique Mall, Bus Depot Antiques and Marketplace and Heritage Home Vintage Inspired Living. Clothing retailers include King’s Ransom, which carries women’s and children’s fashions, and J Rae’s Boutique, with a variety of tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes, jewelry and accessories. For authentic western wear, look no further than Apos Boot Outlet and Apos Western Wear, where you can walk out looking like a cowboy even if you might be a city slicker.
Other not-to-miss downtown shops include The Publish Page Bookshop, Read Fine Art Gallery, an eclectic art gallery. After your shopping excursion, indulge in a treat at Trovato Street, a nostalgic candy store, or swing by Amani by G for a decadent hot stone, reflexology or aromatherapy treatment.
To learn more about local history and culture, Cleburne has several fascinating museums. The Layland Museum, which opened in 1963, has 50,000 artifacts and 100,000 photographs that document the area’s rich heritage. The museum also has several permanent exhibitions that trace Cleburne’s past, from its earliest Native Americans to the first settlers during the frontier period in Texas and finally The 20th Century Gallery, which delves into many aspects of local life in the 1900s, including home furnishings, transportation and the effect of global events on residents.
Check out The Cleburne Railroad Museum, which collects and interprets artifacts that preserve the history of the railroad in Cleburne and the men and women who built it. The Chisolm Trail Outdoor Museum includes the county’s original log courthouse, a blacksmith shop, a stagecoach station, teepees and other attractions. Finally, the Gone With the Wind Remembered Museum and Gift Shop pays tribute to the classic 1939 film with a comprehensive collection of memorabilia, including dresses, props, jewelry and photos.
For downtown entertainment, Plaza Theater puts on spectacular shows throughout the year, ranging from musicals and comedies to dramas. There’s also a Plaza Jr. Theatre for kids 2 to 18. Another great spot for live theater is Cleburne Carnegie Players at the Cleburne Conference Center.
For those who enjoy the great outdoors, the 528-acre Cleburne State Park offers the scenic Cedar Lake for swimming, fishing and boating, with kayaks and paddle boards for rent. There’s also 13 miles of hiking and biking trails, ranging from easy to strenuous, which wind past beautiful hardwood trees and a hand-carved, three-tiered spillway.
Lake Pat Cleburne, located along the Nolan River just southwest of the city, is another popular destination. At about 1,500 acres, the lake is an ideal spot for water sports, including boating, water skiing and swimming.
At Hulen Park, home to Steam Engine 3417, which ran on the Santa Fe Railroad system during the 1900s, there’s a baseball/softball field, tennis courts, basketball court, picnic area and playground.
If golf is more your swing, Cleburne Golf Links has an 18-hole, par-72 golf course—perfect for youth and adult golf competitions. After a round of golf, check out the pro shop and grab a bite to eat at the Grill, which serves hamburgers, sandwiches and other tasty fare.
Photo Courtesy of Issac Gravitt, Gwena Rhodes, & Roger Jenks