10-field soccer complex begins process of gaining county zoning approval

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

August 05, 2001

PLANS FOR Covenant Park - the 10-field complex the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County wants to build just north of Columbia - are due their first governmental airing this week before the Howard County Planning Board.

SAC/HC needs a special zoning exception before it can build metro Baltimore's first privately owned, soccer-only complex. The Planning Board's imprimatur is the first public step in the process. The project is one of three items on the agenda for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.

The organization is hoping that sustained communicating of its plans and intentions with the site's few immediate neighbors, as well as with residents of other subdivisions along Centennial Lane, will pay off in a smooth public process.

Among other things, SAC/HC sponsored a trip for some of those residents last week to the new, larger Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, just to show how things are apt to look. The Montgomery County complex has large government financial backing; SAC/HC is spending its own money.

The 52.4 acres, which SAC/HC has acquired from Covenant Baptist Church, are on the west side of Centennial Lane, roughly opposite Centennial Park. The congregation is planning a new church for the site, as well, and would share parking with the county's largest soccer group.

To expedite SAC/HC's plans, Covenant Park also is on the Board of Appeals' Sept. 13 agenda. A positive decision there would likely allow SAC/HC to start moving dirt by late fall.

"We're expecting some questions," said SAC/HC President James Carlan, who at midweek was awaiting county planners' analysis in preparation for Wednesday's session. "But we're optimistic."

Champs times seven

The Dynamics, a baton-twirling club profiled on this page July 15, returned home from South Bend, Ind. - Notre Dame - last week with seven national team titles out of 15 events entered.

"Actually, we were hoping for nine," said Laurel's Linda Alford, founder and head coach of the Columbia-based club, which has a total of 31 female competitors ranging into their early 20s. "But we took second in two events we thought we had won - the judges saw something we didn't, and you never know about that kind of thing."

The Dynamics faced other clubs from across the nation, most of them larger, in various skill- and age-level events. Besides their seven team titles, Dynamics twirlers were runners-up another seven times and placed third once, Alford said.

The third came in senior large dance-twirl competition - "the most prestigious of them all," she said. She entered two squads, and one won; the third-place squad missed being runner-up by a fraction of a point.

"Almost every kid on my teams now has a national title," said the proud coach, whose organization defended national honors taken a year ago but now must find a new home; it was a Volleyball House customer (update below).

Got 3v3 soccer?

What kind of soccer tournament results from subtracting a local radio station's constant plugs but adding milk? One with a niftier poster - of Kansas City Wizards goalkeeper Tony Meola with a white mustache. Also a smaller tournament, this summer, at least.

Still, somewhere around 150 teams of youth-to-adult players were expected for this weekend's Got Milk? 3v3 Soccer Shootout at Howard Community College. Winners will advance to regionals in New York City this month and ultimately to Orlando, Fla., for nationals in January.

Reduced local participation this year (down from about 215 teams last summer) has more to do with a lack of local publicity than the change in sponsors, said SAC/HC's Carlan. WMIX-FM, the backer last year, was better able to drum up interest, but the economic downturn caused the Baltimore station to scrub the promotion.

3v3 tournaments, with three players per side, no goalies, small fields and short games, are occurring in about 60 cities. In addition to the National Dairy Council, this year's shootouts have Major League Soccer as a sponsor. And participants have new bait: a chance to win $1 million by weaving through a maze and scoring into a small goal.

Two updates

VOLLEYBALL HOUSE: Just before moving the last of their property to storage Tuesday, owners of Columbia's Volleyball House and Indoor Soccer Arena altered the posting on their Web site about the organization's hazy future. It's cryptic but optimistic:

"After some more work by our real estate agent, it now seems that a good space very near our present location may be available, opening Nov. 1 of this year, for our expansion (two soccer arenas and six volleyball courts).

"We hope to be able to finalize these arrangements very soon."

Patrons of the popular, 11-year-old facility in the old General Electric warehouse, which is being converted to offices called Renaissance at Gateway, will be delighted if such a new facility comes together.

Two indoor soccer fields would double what Howard County had before Tuesday and would be two more than it has as a result of the Gateway Center facility's closing. Dual fields were part of plans for a new facility VBH announced in February but later aborted. The six volleyball courts would duplicate what VBH has just vacated as part of an out-of-court lawsuit settlement. The owners had talked about eight courts in a new home.

BASEBALL CO-CHAMPS: The HCYP Raiders, not the Patriots as reported here last week, were the 16-and-under co-champs of the Beast of the East Showcase.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525, or address e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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