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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)
About 130 teams are competing in this year's Veterans Invitational soccer tournament, the 15th edition of an event that boosts the area economy while also promoting service and patriotism among youth.
By the time of next year's tournament, it's possible the Goebel Soccer Complex host site will have a new owner. The Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau is in talks to take over the facility from the city.
The complex at North Green River and Heckel roads was developed in 2002 after Vectren Corp bought the land for $1 million, and turned it over to the city. In exchange, Vectren received the Riverside Drive property where its headquarters now sits.
"Soccer supporters say the complex will attract major tournaments, bringing in millions of dollars from visitors," the Courier & Press reported in October 2002.
This year's tournament, which began last weekend at Price Park, is expected to generate about $625,000 in direct expenditures by guests. But overall use of Goebel Soccer Complex has declined, and its economic impact at present isn't what supporters had hoped for when it was built.
That's why the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau is interested in taking ownership. Little new investment has been made at Goebel since it opened, and artificial turf on its championship field is worn. All of the complex's other fields are grass. It is used by local soccer, lacrosse and football teams.
The visitors bureau, which has control of local hotel and motel tax funds, would seek upgrades to Goebel. The visitors bureau last year built Deaconess Sports Park, a youth baseball and softball facility on North Green River Road, next to Goebel.
"We've had potential contracts with the city going back and forth," said Bob Warren, director of the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Nothing has been determined at this point. But with us having the Deaconess Sports Park, it makes complete sense for us to be able to operate both. Yes, we are working on it. We hope something can get resolved early in (2017)."
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke also said there have been ongoing talks.
The local soccer community would welcome the change.
"It's like anything, if you don't keep up, keep current, you're going to become outdated," said David Nicholson, a Veterans Invitational organizer and an official with the Indiana Fire soccer club. "Evansville is still well-located for youth soccer. We attract good teams in this area, but it's competitive, and you have to keep current."
Warren, Winnecke, County Commissioner-elect Ben Shoulders and others gathered under a tent at Goebel on Thursday evening for ceremonies to officially open this year's Veterans Invitational and recognize lead sponsor Merrill Lynch.
The event was rife with veteran tributes, with a keynote address from Indiana National Guard Lt. Col. Mike Roscoe, who received the Bronze Star for his valor on tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Roscoe is director and chair of the University of Evansville Department of Physician Assistant Science.
Nicholson said that in founding the tournament 15 years ago, "we all felt that we had a responsibility to teach our youth, beyond soccer. About community responsibility, giving back, sacrifice and community responsibility. It's a wonderful, generational event."
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