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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
GREENSBORO - The big soccer tournament is scheduled to begin this afternoon with opening ceremonies and a parade of athletes at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Games begin today at the expanded BB&T Soccer Complex at Bryan Park and run through Thursday.
The return of the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Championships is a big deal to the city.
The size, length and scope of the tournament make it worth an estimated $10.2 million to the local economy, according to the Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"It's valuable," CVB President Henri Fourrier said. "With the players and coaches and families and all, we've got about 6,200 people in town. They're filling up pretty much the whole community."
That's a lot of hotel rooms and restaurant meals.
And it's all because of a couple of extra fields at the city's soccer showplace, Bryan Park.
"We were out of the mix for awhile because we didn't have enough soccer fields," Fourrier said. "We made a case to get Bryan Park expanded, and we got it brought up to 18 fields, which is (U.S. Youth Soccer's) minimum requirement. That enabled us to host this event."
Greensboro last hosted the Region III tournament in 2003. Since then, youth soccer has continued to grow in popularity and the numbers of teenagers playing the game has increased.
It outgrew Bryan Park.
U.S. Youth Soccer's estimates are more than 12,000 spectators, 3,600 players and 200 teams from its South region, which includes host North Carolina as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
The players are boys and girls from age groups 13-and-under to 19/20-and-under.
Greensboro's successful bid to host the tournament was announced in August 2016, with the city chosen as the championships site for this year and for 2018.
"We knew the opportunity was there and pursued it," said Kim Strable, the president of the Greensboro Sports Commission.
"We thought, 'Well, shoot, let's go for two years in a row.' They were a little reluctant at first," Strable said, "but our reputation is having great support from volunteers and parents. They were worried about burning people out, because it's a pretty big commitment with the length of the tournament and covering so many fields."
The new fields made the difference in the bid. And they could make a difference over the next seven days if bad weather moves in. Some of the fields at Bryan Park have lights for night games, and some are artificial turf.
Bringing back the Region III tournament after 14 years could open the door to other events, too.
"Since we won this bid," Fourrier said, "we've had other groups come forward and say, 'If y'all could get 20 fields, we'll bring our events to town.' So we've got two more fields under construction right now."
All teams here this week are scheduled to compete in round-robin pool play today through Sunday, with winners advancing to single-elimination tournaments for quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.
Regional winners in each age group advance to the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships in Frisco, Texas, July 24 through 30.
"Getting this one validates the city's commitment through the years to build, sustain and maintain its facilities to a high grade," Strable said. "What Byran Park soccer means to this city is significant. The landscape for soccer has changed in the last 10 or 15 years where so many cities have built these mega sites with a lot of fields in one spot. ... It creates a festive environment for tournaments. Us having Bryan Park with the recent expansion, well, that's significant."
Contact Jeff Mills at (336) 373-7024, and follow @JeffMillsNR on Twitter.
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