Soccer: Kicking it Up
28 Mar, 2018By: Peter Francesconi
It’s probably safe to say that most kids today won’t get out of elementary or middle school without having played soccer at some point — whether in phys ed class, on the playground at recess or after school or on weekends in any of the thousands of leagues available. And with the U.S. ready to bid on the World Cup (in concert with Canada and Mexico), interest is likely to remain just as strong at the professional level as well.
Wherever you look, excellent soccer fields abound in the U.S., and more often than not, they’re filled with players. Here are some locations to consider for your next soccer event.
El Paso, Texas
“Sports planners have discovered that El Paso is sun-soaked, warm and always ready for a kick-off,” says Brooke Underwood, director of convention development for Visit El Paso. “We currently have a total of 60 soccer fields in the city, and more are on the way.”
Venues include the 57-acre Westside Sports Complex, with 13 natural turf fields, nine of them lighted. The facility offers permanent concessions and restroom facilities, along with more than a thousand free parking spaces. The Dream Arena is a 79,000-square-foot, multi-sport gym that can accommodate a variety of sports, including indoor soccer.
“Our 2012 ‘quality-of-life’ bond has given us half a billion dollars to create new venues and improve existing fields, parks, courts, pools, diamonds and more,” Underwood says. For instance, slated to be completed by June is the new, $48 million, 92-acre Eastside Regional Park, which will have six fields available, in addition to many other amenities.
El Paso also has hotels and restaurants to fit all budgets. And off the field, athletes and families can enjoy a variety of entertainment options, including the recently opened Topgolf facility.
Greenville, North Carolina
Support for soccer in Greenville is big, says Gray Williams, director of sports development for the Greenville-Pitt County CVB, particularly from East Carolina University, the MESA Soccer Complex, and the local Pitt-Greenville Soccer Association (PGSA).
One of the largest facilities is the North Recreational Complex, which is connected to East Carolina University and offers eight lighted fields and a fieldhouse with covered seating and restrooms. Also at the university is the 1,000-seat Johnson Soccer Stadium, built in 2011 and with a state of the art drainage system, concessions, new scoreboard with video board, air-conditioned press box, TV camera platforms and more.
PGSA’s Soccerplex offers seven fields that can be configured in a variety of ways. Among events that take place there is the Bojangles Beast of the East tournament and the Omega Sports Summer Sizzler.
The massive, 194-acre Orange County Great Park Sports Complex draws players of all ages for local, national and international events. The facility, which continues to be built out, is on track to become one of the largest public multi-sport venues in the U.S.
Currently, Great Park offers 13 fields for soccer, but six more are scheduled to be completed by this fall, which will give the facility 11 grass and eight synthetic turf fields, many of them lighted. The fields include benches for players and spectator viewing areas. There also is a championship stadium that can seat 2,500 fans.
The LA Galaxy Cup, a new youth tourney, was slated to take place at Great Park at the end of March, bringing in about 150 teams, says Dave Lucey, sales manager for Destination Irvine. “Next year, it will be even larger, as we have more fields coming online.” The complex also has the NAIA Soccer Championships in November of 2018 and 2019.
Lucey says that even before Great Park opened, the area had a lot of fields available for soccer and a number of multi-field venues. “We host a lot of soccer tournaments,” he adds, “and now, many of those will probably move to Great Park.”
Kansas City, Kansas
“Soccer has really taken off in our area over the past 10 to 15 years,” says Justin Stine, the meetings & sports sales manager for the Kansas-based Kansas City CVB. “Having top-of-the-line facilities here that get national recognition has helped the development and the continued growth of the sport.”
The latest facility opened just last June, the Wyandotte Sporting Fields, which is a 52-acre complex with four natural grass and eight synthetic turf fields, with lights. The easy-to-reach venue is less than three miles from the area’s entertainment and restaurant district.
Also new in Kansas City and located just a mile from Wyandotte Sporting Fields is Pinnacle, a state-of-the-art training center and home of Sporting Kansas City. The venue will accommodate the U.S. Soccer National Development Center and Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center.
Stine says with the new Wyandotte fields added to the existing inventory, the area now has unique opportunities to continue to expand the tournament business, including the ability to hold events that can bring in hundreds of teams at once.
One of the exciting developments in Lincoln is the new Bugeaters FC amateur soccer team, which competes in the United Premier Soccer League and plays at the Abbott Sports Complex. “The team has a lot of momentum and support behind it,” says Derek Bombeck, the sales development manager for the Lincoln CVB.
The Abbott Sports Complex has 60 acres of professionally maintained fields and can host major soccer tournaments. The venue also has a multi-purpose indoor facility with one indoor turf field. Lincoln also is home to the impressive 2,500-seat Barbara Hibner Soccer Stadium, completed in 2015, on the University of Nebraska campus.
One of the newest venues in Lincoln is Speedway Village, with nine outdoor fields and a 100,000-square-foot indoor turf facility. “Getting Speedway online has been very beneficial to us,” Bombeck says. “Soccer is alive and well here, and we’re looking to grow it.”
Miami County, Ohio
“Soccer is one of our most popular sports in Miami County,” says Leiann Stewart, group sales manager for the Miami County Visitors & Convention Bureau. In fact, in May, more than 200 teams descend on the area to participate in the Troy Strawberry Festival Soccer Invitational (which takes place two weeks ahead of the massive Strawberry Festival itself, that brings in about 200,000 visitors).
The soccer tournament utilizes the 10 fields at Kyle Park in Tipp City and the five fields at Duke Park in Troy. Stewart says Duke Park also has a lot of space available to create even more fields, if needed. Both parks offer a number of other activities and amenities, including concession stands, picnic areas, playgrounds and dog parks. Kyle Park is within walking distance to the historic downtown area, with unique shops and restaurants. In addition, the Great Miami Recreational Trail, which is the largest paved bike/walking path network in the nation, runs through both parks.
The Visitors & Convention Bureau helps tournament owners with site inspections, assisting with bid proposals, planning and working with hotels, providing visitor materials, assisting with marketing and public relations, as well as other services.
The place for soccer in Oshkosh is the 270-acre Winnebago County Community Park, which features an 18-field soccer complex, complete with pavilions, concessions and restrooms. When not watching matches, visitors and families can take advantage of a host of other activities the park offers, including playgrounds, an archery range, disc golf course, fishing lakes and a dog park.
“We have a number of tournaments at Winnebago Park all year,” says Oshkosh CVB Marketing Manager Justin DeJager. One of the largest is the Oshkosh on the Water Soccer Tournament, held each June and hosting about 175 teams. The boys’ and girls’ event, now into its 34th year, is hosted by the Oshkosh United Soccer Club.
The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh also offers the Oshkosh Sports Complex, with a 10,000-seat stadium, synthetic turf field, and all the amenities. Expected to be completed by this fall at the university is the RecPlex, which will feature fields that will be covered by a dome in the winter and open during the summer.
Round Rock, Texas
The city that bills itself as “The Sports Capital of Texas” recently opened the 60-acre Round Rock Multipurpose Complex, which has five natural grass fields, including a championship field, and five synthetic turf fields, also including a championship field. “The complex will host two national events back to back this year, and 2018 is filling up fast,” says Nancy Yawn, director of the Round Rock CVB.
The new complex features sports lighting on all 10 fields, permanent seating with shade structures and more than 900 parking spaces. In addition, there is a clubhouse Yawn describes as “beautiful,” with meeting rooms overlooking the fields. There are also many other amenities for families, including plazas, pavilions and playgrounds.
“Our sports-minded community and forward-thinking city government are always looking for new ways to support the tournaments and teams that play in Round Rock,” Yawn says. “The community sees the value in continuing to build our infrastructure.”
Tammy Dunn, the sports development director for the Snohomish County Sports Commission, says there are more than 5,000 youth and adult soccer players in leagues in the county, which speaks to how big soccer is in the area and the support it receives from the community.
Among the facilities available is the 17-field Stocker Fields Soccer Complex in Snohomish. The massive facility, operated by the Snohomish Youth Soccer Club, offers concessions, and parking for RVs. “We have a great relationship with the Soccer Club and work with them on major tournaments, including regional and national events,” Dunn says. In August, the complex hosts 300 teams over four days for the Snohomish Bigfoot Soccer Tournament.
Other venues include Kasch Park in Everett, with three full-size turf fields, all with lights. The park also has concessions, picnic areas, restrooms and a playground area. Each November, Kasch Park holds a Turkey Shootout event for boys and girls. Recent renovations to the park, which is also where the community college team plays, include new artificial turf, netting and protection around the fields. The new Meadowdale Athletic Complex in Lynnwood adds two artificial turf fields to the inventory in the county.
Stafford County, Virginia
Opened in March 2016, Embrey Mill Sports Complex offers six synthetic turf fields and two grass fields, all with lights. The complex, which is managed by the county, also has restrooms, concessions and other amenities for athletes and fans.
One of the larger tournaments at the venue, says Lisa M. Logan of Stafford Tourism, is the annual St. Patrick’s event in March, held over three days and drawing about 250 teams. The event is now into its 25th year.
A number of boys’ and girls’ Premier Cup powered by Under Armour events take place in Stafford county throughout the year, in addition to Washington Area Girls Soccer (WAGS) league events.
Logan says that many other fields are available for soccer in the area. “The Stafford Area Soccer Association helps to run events, and we have lots of people who play in the area, so there’s a lot of support for the sport,” she notes. “People love soccer around here.”