Hometown Horns: Sugar Land, Texas
Often overshadowed by its neighboring bully Houston, the city of Sugar Land offers people the opportunity to live in a suburb quiet enough to enjoy life, yet still be close to the busy urban life.
Recently named the third best little city to live in the United States by Money magazine, Sugar Land is one of the most diverse cities in the nation with a population evenly divided among all racial classes.
Moreover, this city is home to four Longhorns athletes -- soccer sophomore goalie , volleyball freshman defensive specialist , and rowing newcomers and -- all of whom surprisingly went to Clements High School.
A dominating force in the net, Pfenninger has started 14 of the 16 games on the Horns’ schedule as their goalie, logging in an average of 1.04 goals per game. With a 10-3-1 record, Pfenninger was named to the second-team All-Freshman team by Soccer America, the Big 12 Newcomer Team and the Big 12 Tournament team, and has earned a spot on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll each semester here. Establishing herself as one of the top goalies in her age group, Pfenninger is also a Sugar Land native, having lived their her whole life.
“I’ve lived in the same house, the same street, and obviously the same town, my whole life,” said Pfenninger.
Perhaps the least talked about of the freshman class, Kisner is letting her actions on the court speak volumes for her talent as a volleyball player. A consistent presence in the backcourt, Kisner has played in 14 matches, earning a starting spot in 13 as the Longhorns’ defensive specialist. With 130 digs, she averages 2.45 digs per game, and has 10 aces for the season. In the match against top-ranked Nebraska, Kisner led the team with 19 digs against one of the hardest hitting and most aggressive teams in the nation. Like Pfenninger, Kisner has called Sugar Land home her entire life.
Juniors Kemp and Montague are both newcomers to the varsity rowing program after walking on the novice team as sophomores. As a coxswain, Kemp is in charge of steering the boat and keeping up the adrenaline and motivation of the other rowers in her boat. Montague sits on the port side and will be looked upon to step up her rowing ability in a talented rowing team.
Though all four may have come from the same school, Sugar Land is not devoid of high schools, as it consists of two districts, Fort Bend and Lamar Consolidated.
“I would say our biggest rivals in sports would be either Elkins or Dulles -- they were just fun games to watch. In volleyball, everyone would show up for our game against Dulles,” Kisner said. “I’d have to admit, though, that our school is probably stronger in academics.”
Only a half hour away from the heart of Houston, some Sugar Land natives sometimes claim that they are from Houston to avoid confusing others.
“I normally tell people that I’m from Houston, because they normally don’t know anything about Sugar Land,” Pfenninger said.
Others proclaim their hometown nice and proud.
“I tell people I’m from Sugar Land, but then I follow up with the fact that it is right out of Houston in case people don’t know where it is,” said Kisner.
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about the city itself is that Sugar Land is made of sugar.
“I once told a girl that I was from Sugar Land and she didn’t believe me. I told her that our houses were made of sugar and we have candy canes out in our front yard and we just eat part of our house whenever we’re hungry. It is usually the kids who don’t believe I’m from a city called Sugar Land. Others just give me a weird look,” said Pfenninger.
Though it is literally not made of the sweet confection, the city was first founded as a sugar plantation. Home to the headquarters of Imperial Sugar, the company’s main factory (where sugar was refined and distributed) used to be one of the biggest historical landmarks of the city.
However, all good things must come to an end, and the sugar factory closed its doors in 2003.
“I was really upset because the sugar factory closed down. Now we’re just Sugar Land with no reason to be Sugar Land,” Pfenninger said.
Like many other small towns, certain areas of Sugar Land stand out for its residents. With a vast array of options indoors and outdoors, it is simple to find leisure anywhere.
“Sugar Land is a little suburban town,” Pfenninger said. “There is a lot of green outside which I love, and we have a lot of parks. We have this greenbelt right by where I live and I can just take the dogs out and let them run around. You can rollerblade up and down the hills, and there are a lot of good eating places around town.”
Moreover, for the avid shoppers like Kisner, First Colony Mall offers the residents of Sugar Land a large selection of stores and restaurants.
“My favorite memory was probably when First Colony Mall was built because that meant I no longer had to go to the Galleria to do my shopping,” Kisner said.
Going into the heart of the city, visitors will find the Town Square which is home to Town Hall and another opportunity for shopping.
“Town Square is a big hangout for the middle school/high school students. There is a Starbucks, a Jamba Juice, many restaurants, a really nice Marriott that is another big attraction for Sugar Land, and a whole bunch of upscale shopping stores. It is really pretty during Christmastime,” Pfenninger described.
And any town can’t be called special without their own annual events. Come the fall season, Sugar Land serves as the fair grounds for the Fort Bend County Fair and Livestock Show, which has grown to be the largest county fair in the state of Texas with nearly 200,000 visitors setting foot.
“Every year, we got out of school for County Fair day,” Kisner said. “It’s your basic county fair that happened every year, but it was really fun.”
The city of Sugar Land also boasts some big name residents, including Houston Texans quarterback David Carr, former Astros player Terry Puhl, and Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland. In the more upscale area of First Colony, homeowners there include basketball players Tracy McGrady, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neal.
A diamond in the rough, hidden under the shadows of Houston, Sugar Land is a gem for its residents. Life is simple enough to relax, yet offers enough to keep one busy. And for a stranger trying to understand the greatness of this city, everything can be summed in their city slogan, “Sugar Land…there is no Equal.”