9-field soccer complex weighed

May 15, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

The Soccer Association of Columbia and Howard Community LTC College are considering a joint venture to create a soccer complex on campus with up to nine fields, possibly with seating for fans and evening games under lights.

The 23-year-old soccer association, the largest youth sports organization in the county with about 3,800 male and female participants ages 5 to 19, has been looking about five years for a site in the county on which to establish a complex. Soccer association officials presented a sketchy proposal to Howard Community College's board of trustees last week.

"This is simply an idea we've had. We've had this goal in mind for a long time," said Gregory Dash, Soccer Association of Columbia president. "We'd like to create a facility with six to nine premier fields that could be accommodated on land where they currently have some fields."

College officials said the board of trustees has not had an opportunity to discuss details of the proposal -- such as financing and maintenance -- but agrees that it has potential.

"It's certainly an exciting concept -- Howard Community College being a regional, if not national, center for soccer," said HCC President Dwight Burrill. "There would be very few complexes similar to that anywhere in the country."

Dr. Burrill said that it would be a "major step" for the college to establish a soccer complex on its grounds, and that the proposal and ramifications must be evaluated thoroughly before a decision is made. Dr. Burrill will make a recommendation to the seven-member board, which will make a decision. No timetable has been set.

The soccer association has an influential ally -- County Executive Charles I. Ecker. Mr. Ecker wrote to Dr. Burrill earlier this month supporting the soccer association's effort.

"We've been working with SAC for several years trying to find a location, and we haven't been able to find anything yet. If this works out, it would be great," Mr. Ecker said. "It appears to be a good location, with good access from Route 29 and all over the county."

Ken Atwater, HCC vice president and dean of students, said the college will explore what effects a soccer complex would have on students and the community "to see if it will be a win-win situation for everyone involved."

The soccer association has been unable to establish a complex the way many clubs do -- by receiving donated land or leasing land at nominal cost from a local government, Mr. Dash said.

"We're constantly on the lookout and keep our fingers crossed for all kinds of possibilities," Mr. Dash said. "Right now, it doesn't look like someone is going to give us the land."

The association now plays spring and fall season games on fields all over the county, through arrangements with the county Department of Recreation and Parks and Department of Education. The association still would need to use fields run by those agencies and search for others to meet demand even if a complex was to be built at the community college, Mr. Dash said.

The association now plays on three fields at the college. New fields could be created at the back of the college, near the tennis courts and Hickory Ridge Road, Mr. Dash said.

Two years ago, the association raised its dues from $60 for two seasons of play to $80 in an effort to start a fund toward establishing a complex, Mr. Dash said.

But the organization still would need other forms of financing, such as a bank loan or corporate sponsorship, to create its own facility, he said.

Finding usable land at an affordable price has been difficult, Mr. Dash said. For example, the soccer association considered buying a large parcel along with another civic group but found that wetlands on the property made it impractical for a soccer complex, he said.

On Memorial Day weekend, the association will be sponsoring the 18th annual Columbia Invitational Tournament, which attracts boys and girls teams nationwide.

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