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Copyright 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
October 8, 2013 Tuesday
714 words
SF considers developing soccer amenities;
More outdoor fields, indoor arena proposed
Kiera Hay Journal Staff Writer

The Beautiful Game may soon get a boost in the City Different.

A resolution now making its way through the City Hall approval process would get the ball rolling on discussions to improve the soccer fields at the Municipal Recreation Complex in south Santa Fe - and raises the possibility of building a new indoor soccer arena.

"If we could develop an area out there that has strictly fields only for soccer and we had an indoor facility where they could play year-round, I think it would benefit both the youth of the community and the adults that play in leagues throughout the year," City Councilor Chris Rivera said.

Supporters say the project would benefit the myriad of Santa Feans who play the increasingly popular sport, including at-risk populations, as well as potentially offer an economic boost to the city.

"Investing in a project to enhance the City's soccer fields will not only have a positive impact on the local soccer community, it will also have a positive effect on the regional population," the resolution states.

Rivera, a sponsor of the measure, said he'd like to see Santa Fe com- pete for soccer competitions with places like Albuquerque.

"There are quite a bit of soccer tournaments that happen year-round and if we could get a soccer tournament here in Santa Fe I think it would be a significant economic boost," said Rivera, a past local board member of the American Youth Soccer Organization.

In Durango, soccer tournaments can generate as much $600,000 in revenue, Corey Lieber of the Northern Soccer Club of Santa Fe said.

Lieber, a former soccer player for Duke University, said it can be a struggle for local teams to find good-quality fields and places to play. All types of soccer players, from youngsters to high schoolers to adults, are affected, he said.

Updating the MRC fields would also centralize Santa Fe's often segregated soccer operations, he said. That would, among other things, bring together coaching and playing talent, Lieber said.

Lieber has helped spearhead the creation of a three-phase plan for the soccer facilities at the MRC, located on Caja del Rio. The first stage includes converting the complex's five grass soccer fields into high-quality artificial turf.

Lieber said artificial turf tends to be more sustainable than natural grass, and would be easier and cheaper to maintain in Santa Fe's desert climate.

Converting the fields to state-of-the-art artificial turf would probably cost around $1million per field, he said.

The next stage involves creating a fenced-off, well-tended grass field certified by FIFA, international soccer's governing body. One of the goals is to offer an option to teams and top players who might be drawn to Santa Fe for high-altitude training opportunities.

Research indicates that those types of "VIPs" often want to practice on something other than just artificial turf, Lieber said. Taos has created its own field to FIFA standards in recent years, also with the goal of attracting national or international teams for training. But the Taos field is artificial turf. Lieber said he's received encouragement about the appeal of that kind of offering from the coach and general manager of Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake, both of whom he knows from his playing days at Duke.

Indoor venue?

The third phase in the plan would involve building an indoor soccer facility. This would allow locals to play soccer year-round and provide a revenue stream from league rentals, birthday parties and other events.

The total cost of plan? Around $14 million to 15 million, according to Lieber.

At this point, it's still unclear how funding might play out. Rivera said Santa Fe's best option is probably to work with the state of New Mexico.

"I think that's why we're bringing it out. It gives us and the soccer clubs the ability to leverage somemoneyfrom the state Legislature," he said.

Rivera said he's hopeful a request could be presented during the next legislative session in early 2014, perhaps for design money.

The resolution is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday by the City Council. It's sponsored by Rivera and Councilors Ron Trujillo, Rebecca Wurzburger and Carmichael Dominguez.

The effort is about "trying to get those amenities other cities have that I think Santa Fe deserves to have as well," Trujillo said.

RIVERA: Soccer could boost city economy
October 8, 2013

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