Soccer: Kicking It Up!
29 Apr, 2015By: Peter Francesconi
About 270 million people around the world play soccer. In the U.S., soccer fields are in virtually every town, handling the needs of an estimated 24 million Americans of all ages who play the sport, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation.
There has been a tremendous explosion of growth at the youth level. US Youth Soccer reported that in 2014, there were 3.06 million registered players between the ages of five and 19, which is a nine percent increase from the past year. In colleges, soccer is now the most popular NCAA sport for women, experiencing nearly 200 percent growth in the last 25 years.
What does all this mean for your soccer tournament or event? It means there are some outstanding facilities across the U.S. that can accommodate soccer tournaments of all sizes, for players of all ages. Here are some locations with some of the best facilities.
High Point, North Carolina
There are seven facilities in High Point, North Carolina, that cater to soccer tournaments and events, for a total of 27 full-size fields, many with lights. The largest, with eight lighted regulation fields, is the multisport High Point Athletic Complex, with restrooms and locker rooms.
Also with eight fields is the popular Phillips Soccer Complex, offering restrooms and concessions. West End Park has three soccer fields, as does the YMCA, while other park and recreation facilities in High Point have more fields available. All the facilities, says Nancy Bowman, the marketing and communications manager for the High Point CVB, are easily accessible to one another.
“We’ve accommodated soccer events with as many as 128 teams,” Bowman says. “We held the U.S. Club Soccer National Finals here last year, which brought in 10,000 attendees, and hope to have that event back here. Also, every year we hold the Piedmont Soccer Alliance Championship, called the Furniture City Classic, which brings in 8,000 attendees.”
Furniture manufacture and shopping is big in High Point and is one of the attractions to the area. “Our youth soccer tournaments bring in a lot of families,” Bowman says, “and we have many different activities here that can keep parents and families occupied and entertained when not on the field.”
The CVB also offers event booking incentives, depending on the size of the group. “We have a really great Parks and Recreation Department in High Point that we work closely with to bring in groups,” Bowman notes. “We take pride in the service we offer, and we see a lot of repeat business.”
Lake County, Illinois
One of the top sports complexes in northern Illinois is the Waukegan SportsPark, featuring 13 outdoor natural grass soccer fields and a lighted synthetic turf Championship Field. The large park (which also has four lighted softball/baseball fields) also offers concession stands and restrooms.
Another large complex in the area is the Libertyville Township Soccer Complex, home to the Greater Libertyville Soccer Association, which has 20 outdoor fields of varying sizes. The Libertyville Sports Complex offers two large indoor artificial surface fields, too. The Vernon Hills Sorts Complex, together with Vernon Hills High School, offers 17 to 20 outdoor fields, depending on how they’re configured, and a stadium field.
“We’ve had national AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) events here, along with regional events for U.S. Soccer Club and events for the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL),” says Teresa Lewis of Visit Lake County. The area, which is about midway between Chicago and Milwaukee, has 8,500 rooms available in the immediate vicinity and has accommodated very large tournaments.
Soccer events coming to the area also benefit from a large local interest in the sport, as the volunteer side of the local soccer organizations often help out. When off the field, athletes and families have plenty to do, including heading south to Chicago or north to Milwaukee, visiting the nearby Six Flags, and much more.
“Everyone in Lewisville understands the value of soccer to this community,” says Carlos Hernandez of the Lewisville, Texas, CVB. “Soccer is very strong here and is one of the highest-demand activities. We’re very fortunate that our city has a vision, and we were able to identify the need for soccer venues some time ago.”
In 2009, the city opened its premier venue, Toyota of Lewisville Railroad Park, which has seven lighted regulation fields and one lighted U14 field, along with bleachers with shade structures, and restroom/concessions buildings.
“All the soccer fields at Railroad Park are grouped together,” Hernandez says. “The soccer concession stand is huge and offers covered areas, and the food is great. There’s a nice place for coaches to set up a registration office and for tournament directors to manage the tournament. Every aspect has been thought through. We asked tournament directors what are the most important things to have here, and we listened to what they told us.”
The city also has Lewisville Lake Park, with another eight lighted fields and next to the 29,000-acre Lewisville Lake. There also are six soccer fields available at the Colony Five Star Complex, and five more fields at the Chinn Chapel Soccer Complex.
“Lewisville is ideal for tournaments,” Hernandez says, being less than 15 minutes from Dallas-Fort Worth airport, and just 20 miles from Dallas. “Our hotels are within five to seven minutes away from our venues, and we can accommodate big tournaments here. Our CVB likes to be very involved, to make sure everything is well run and athletes and coaches are taken care of.”
Morgan Hill, California
Morgan Hill in Northern California lives and breathes soccer. With 28 acres of grass fields available at the Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center, plus two synthetic turf fields with lights, the facility can configure the grounds for any type of soccer event.
“We have a lot of fields in one location,” says Jeff Dixon, chairman and executive director of the Morgan Hill Youth Sports Alliance. “We’re now beginning to host national tours, such as the ESPN Deportes and Alliance Futbol.” Right across the street from the soccer complex are 500 hotel rooms.
Morgan Hill itself is ideally located, about half an hour from the San Jose airport and about an hour away from San Francisco, in a beautiful valley nestled between two mountain ranges. The professional staff at the sports center offers full turn-key service for event owners and managers.
Palm Beach County, Florida.
“This has been one of our biggest years for soccer in Palm Beach County on both the participatory level and as a spectator-driven sports,” says George Linley, executive director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.
The U.S. men’s national team played Honduras in October, the fourth international soccer match to be held in the last two years at Florida Atlantic University Stadium. In December, Palm Beach County hosted two soccer national championships simultaneously—the NCAA Women’s College Cup at FAU Stadium, and the NAIA Men’s National Championship played at the Delray Beach Seacrest Soccer Complex.
For large tournaments, including the AYSO national games, which will return in 2016 with more than 220 teams, PBC can lay out 30 contiguous fields in one location at the International Polo Club. But also, right across from the Polo Club is Village Park, which is home to 15 multipurpose fields with lights. “We’re also home to so many great venues owned by Palm Beach County Park and Rec, each with a collection of four or five soccer fields,” Linley says. “Soccer is becoming a major part of our identity here in south Florida.”
Palm Coast, Florida
In the northern part of Florida, halfway between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, is the relatively new city of Palm Coast, which started as a planned city in the late 1960s. Cindi Lane of the Palm Coast Sports Alliance says during the recession six years ago, the city made a push to pursue sports tournaments and developed facilities to help bring events to Palm Coast.
Facilities available include the Indian Trails Sports Complex, adjacent to the middle school, which offers 10 soccer fields, including four lighted fields. “We’ve been really fortunate to have received two grants from the Flagler County Tourist Development Council to help build those facilities,” Lane says. The area has attracted regional soccer events and is now getting state events. Recently, the area hosted a U.S. Club Soccer National Premier League Showcase for girls that brought 64 teams and about 130 college coaches to Palm Coast.
“The use of our fields is all free, we don’t charge the tournaments anything,” Lane says. “We do the setup, we line the fields, we set up the goals. During the tournament, we provide two city employees to take care of whatever the event needs. We pride ourselves in keeping the fields in beautiful condition and providing excellent customer service.
“We find that families coming here really enjoy themselves,” Lane adds. “After the competition, they just want down time to relax, go to the beach and lounge. We have lots of beaches, cool restaurants, hiking and biking trails. That’s the beauty of the place—there’s no hustle and bustle.”
Rapid City, South Dakota
Rapid City, South Dakota, currently has about 19 soccer fields throughout the city, “but one of our dreams was to get all our fields in one location,” says Roger Tellinghuisen.
That dream will soon be realized with the opening in the next year of a sports complex currently called Dakota Fields, which will start with a total of 12 fields (eight with lights) and should be fully opened for the spring of 2016. The facility, says Tellinghuisen, who is a spokesman for the soccer complex, also will have plenty of room to grow, with another 40 acres of property available to add at least nine more fields.
“We’re the largest community within 300 miles, so we’re kind of the central hub for soccer in the region,” adds Domico Rodriguez Sr., the director of sports and events for the Rapid City CVB. “We can host large tournaments here, and have the hotel accommodations, too.”
There are also unique attractions in the area, such as the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse monument.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
One of the unique annual events in Virginia Beach is the McDonald’s North American Sand Soccer Championships, held in June over 22 blocks of the city’s oceanfront. The three-day competition, this year June 5-7, attracts teams from around the world.
More traditionally, Virginia Beach offers a number of facilities for hosting soccer events, including the 75-acre Hampton Roads Soccer Complex, which features 19 fully irrigated grass fields. In fact, funds from the Sand Soccer Championships were used to upgrade the Hampton Roads facility and add two full-size synthetic turf fields. The headquarters building provides restrooms, concessions, a meeting room and first aid trainer’s room, and there also are two large picnic pavilions. A second restroom/concession building serves the back fields.
“The Hampton Roads Soccer Complex has a proven record of hosting successful events,” says Nancy Helman, director of sports marketing for the Virginia Beach CVB. “The on-site amenities and dedicated staff make it a turnkey operation for tournament directors. Free parking, clean bathrooms, concessions on-site and close proximity to shopping, beaches, attractions and hotels make athletes, coaches, fans and families want to come back year after year.”
Other outdoor venues include the Princess Anne Athletic Complex, with seven multi-purpose fields, (two lighted). There also are natural grass fields at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex, which has a three-level stadium with a synthetic turf field sized to accommodate international soccer matches, with stadium seating for 6,000, with room for 4,000 more from grass berms.
The area also has the 175,000-square-foot Virginia Beach Field House, one of the largest indoor sports facilities on the East Coast with six synthetic turf fields of varying sizes.