THE AFTERGLOW of last weekend's debut of the Soccer Association of Columbia-Howard County's new Covenant Park fields took a significant financial twist the day after tournament play ended.
Dave Procida, the club's president, announced that directors had approved on Tuesday night the largest sponsorship in club history.
Creig Northrop & The Northrop Team, a Clarksville-based real estate business, will pay $375,000 over seven years for participation in Covenant Park, Procida said.
In exchange, the club will alter the name of the complex, with the entrance sign on Centennial Lane to read "Northrop Fields at Covenant Park."
Covenant Park also will be home for a new sanctuary for Covenant Baptist Church, which sold the soccer club the acreage it needed for its fields.
Other soccer-related promotions, such as the Northrop firm providing water bottles at cost that the organization can sell for a profit, mean the deal's eventual value to the club will top $400,000, Procida said.
The water bottles, signs on each of the soccer complex's eight fields, and other spots also will bear the Northrop name.
The money seems to make the agreement the largest for any Howard County amateur sports group.
"It's a big shot for us - and a good investment for both of us," Procida said. "The kids will benefit today, tomorrow and down the line."
Later, he added, "We don't want the perception that we're selling our souls. We're not. This is a case of us doing what we need to do to support this new facility, and these days, sponsorships are a financial fact of life."
Procida said the club is soliciting other commercial sponsorships and private donations to defray costs. Such deals will become visible as signs on the sidelines of fields, on benches, around a new clubhouse, and in other ways, he said.
The club has for years used sponsorships, such as one from the stain remover Shout, to generate revenue, registration and camp fees. The club also benefits from an association with Adidas, the sporting goods and apparel maker.
Creig Northrop, 36, who grew up in Ellicott City, said he wanted to be visible at Covenant Park because "the positive energy represented by those fields is the kind of thing that my business is about.
"It's a great facility and a great location. I'm a big sports guy and very, very big on supporting the community - and soccer is such a positive thing in this county."
Northrop also has underwritten a 2-year-old unsung heroes program for nonathletes in county high schools. And his business is one of several corporate backers of new lighting that will be installed at all county public high school stadiums in time for night sports this fall.
Curiously, perhaps, Northrop is not a soccer guy.
He said he was a football, baseball and track competitor growing up, first, in the Howard County Youth Program and, later, at Mount St. Joseph High School. He has no children in the SAC-HC organization, and he missed Covenant Park's frenetic, three-day opening over the Memorial Day weekend.
Procida said the nearly $55,000 a year from Northrop, with the largest portions coming in the first several years, will cover "about 35 percent" of the operating costs annually at the new soccer complex.
Those costs include turf and field maintenance, electric bills for field and parking lot lighting and irrigation costs.
Artistically, the Memorial Day tournament left SAC-HC leaders and members aglow as compliments flowed generously from visiting East Coast soccer clubs.
Parking was adequate for all three days of games on five fields, three of them synthetic turf that got close scrutiny, as well as praise, for its playing characteristics.
Most of Monday's championship matches were played - with lights cutting the haze - in drizzle, with a downpour during the last games. But there were few slips, no mud marred the playing surface, and balls ran and bounced. Hard, low shots even skated similarly to balls struck on wet, real grass.
"We learned that we'll need to stagger starting times on some fields, which will help with the parking," said Jim Carlan, SAC-HC's veteran operating director. "And we're real curious to see how much the lights are going to cost to operate."
Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.