After years of playing on rough, pitted fields and parents driving all over town to attend their children’s games, soccer players and their families finally have a first-class complex to play at in Modesto. But just a few weeks into the recreational league season, there seem to be more complaints than celebration about this $10 million complex and what it will offer the city and players in the long run.
The Modesto Youth Soccer Association fouled up in with its sudden decision to charge people for the premium parking places, those closest to the fields. The league should have done a better job of communicating with parents about intent for the $5 optional fee. If all 90 spaces designated as premium had filled, it would generate $450 on a Saturday. Instead, the MYSA board probably lost as much in ill will and time spent responding to complaints.
The number of people and cars pouring into the Grogan Park-Enochs High neighborhood on Saturdays is a testament to the popularity of youth soccer. We urge the MYSA board and city officials to continue to work out finances and rules regarding the complex. It may be that the younger age groups should play elsewhere, to reduce traffic and parking challenges.
It is a huge undertaking for any nonprofit to take over running and maintaining a major facility. Again, the city and the nonprofit leadership have work to do to map out just how this will work. It may be unrealistic for the city to expect the Grogan complex to operate in the black for its first few years, at least. We don’t have to look any farther than the city golf courses to see the challenges of having city facilities pay for themselves. The nonprofit First Tee, another program aimed at youth, is now operating the nine-hole Muni Golf Course, but it has the backing of the Del Rio Foundation.
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Meanwhile, not all families may realize what is involved in maintaining good soccer fields. Keeping sodas and gum off the fields will make the artificial turf last longer – and make the playing experience safer and more enjoyable for players of all ages.
We do urge MYSA to abandon any idea of charging an admission fee for families and others to watch their children play in recreation league soccer. It will put the sport out of reach for too many families. Families whose children play in the traveling competitive leagues, on the other hand, expect extra expenses, such as parking fees, at tournaments.
No one expects an Under-8 soccer player to have the skills and focus that an Under-12 or Under-14 player might have. The Grogan complex is new and the MYSA is a rookie at managing this kind of facility. The organization needs better communication with its families and coaching from city officials but it also needs to be given time to improve at this.