LOST IN the swirl around the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County's Covenant Park field complex has been an altering of leadership in the county's largest amateur sports organization.
David Procida, a key SAC/HC leader in Covenant Park's acquisition, was voted to a two-year term as the group's president during last month's annual meeting.
This doesn't mean that Jim Carlan, who had been SAC/HC president for six years and is in his 29th year with the 6,000-player organization, is going away.
Carlan's title has become chief operating officer - a paid, full-time role overseeing the club's day-to-day operations, and that's a full plate, indeed.
"I wouldn't even have considered the job if Jim wasn't going to stay," said Procida, 46, a commercial construction contractor who has been active in SAC/HC for six years. "We have a terrific working arrangement."
Carlan, an affable, retired federal executive regarded by many as the club's guru, said a switch in his role had been in the works for some time and that with Covenant Park's development sure to require much management time, dividing his duties was necessary.
"I'm 62, and we need the next generation in here," he said. "There are very few old-timers left, even on our board, so in a management sense, this is succession planning.
"Dave is one of those who will take the club forward during the next six or seven years," Carlan said.
Procida is a marathon runner who also holds a "C-level" coaching license from the U.S. Soccer Federation and says he will continue coaching his twins' under-11 travel and rec-level teams.
With Carlan as SAC/HC's public face as the Covenant Park concept unfolded, Procida negotiated the land deal with Covenant Baptist Church, haggled with the community over the plans and was involved in all initial planning.
Building the soccer complex becomes his baby, while Carlan minds the store.
There are a couple of items to mop up after Tuesday's 4-1 vote by the county's Board of Appeals approving SAC/HC's 10-field Covenant Park:
After testimony that began in September, the five board members finally reached the correct decision - in less than 30 minutes - despite some yucky political wishy-washiness.
The doo-dah included board Chairman Robert C. Sharpe's reversal of his negative straw vote on the project just before Christmas and Jacqueline Scott casting the only nay vote because, essentially, she trusted her feelings more than a respected traffic consultant's numbers.
But before voting - after a majority three votes had been cast in favor of SAC/HC - Scott praised the club's work, agreed the county needs more fields and said that otherwise the proposal satisfied all board standards.
Just following her conscience, she said.
A new countdown - the permit and site-development processes that precede any new construction - is under way in what has been a 12-year quest by SAC/HC to build its own fields.
SAC/HC leaders, who wanted to move the first dirt by the end of last year, still believe play at the 10-field complex can begin with the club's annual Memorial Day weekend tournament in 2003.
But Procida said that in case of unforeseen delays, the club will opt for good turf growth before allowing play to occur, likely in fall 2003.
Jerry May, executive director of the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association, dropped by SAC/HC's offices after Tuesday night's ruling.
May, a Montgomery countian who was involved in development of the year-old SoccerPlex in Germantown, told club leaders that Covenant Park's 10 quality fields, tailored specifically for soccer's needs, will prove to be an asset not only for Howard County but for Maryland as well.
Among other things, May said, adding the local fields to the 24 - including one stadium - planned for Germantown can help the state organization with regional tournaments and, possibly, the 2003 national youth championships.
Wheaties cover boy
Doug Ulman, the former Columbia soccer player best known locally these days for the fund he set up to help young adults with cancer, is getting national recognition later this year usually reserved for athletes of national and, sometimes, world stature.
Ulman, who lives now in Austin, Texas, where since last April he's been director of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a cancer group named for the famed cyclist, will be on a Wheaties box this month.
OK, so it'll be on a Wheaties Energy Crunch box, as General Mills adapts an old promotion to a new product.
It's still an honor for the former Centennial High soccer standout who at 24 has twice beaten the cancer that led to the founding locally of the Ulman Fund for Young Adults.
He was one of six "Everyday Winners" chosen by the cereal maker from 10,000 nominees.
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