Soccer complex construction could start within days

Saturday, July 13, 2002

JACKSON, Mo. -- Work could begin as soon as next week on a multi-field soccer complex off Route PP in the southwest corner of Jackson.

The Jackson Area Optimist Soccer Association (JAOSA) is spearheading the project, being developed on a 27-acre flood plain with a target completion date for the fall of 2003.

Organizers said work could begin in the next several days if they're able to secure donated labor.

"This is going to be one of the biggest things in Jackson in a long time," said former JAOSA president Jack Litzelfelner, head of the project committee. "With this many soccer fields, we're going to have one of the premier soccer parks definitely in Southeast Missouri, and even up in St. Louis."

About 18 fields are planned for the complex.

JAOSA, a recreational league for youths in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, has seen its membership flourish over the years with the increased popularity of the sport at the youth level. Formed in the early 1980s, JAOSA, which had about 300 participants in 1986, numbers over 800 today.

With a total of five soccer fields at two different locations -- two at Jackson City Park and three at Soccer Park -- the city of Jackson has run out of venues for games. Select soccer teams add another 150 players competing for the same playing fields.

"We've just run out of space," Litzelfelner said. "The games are bad enough, but practices, it's impossible to try to put 500 kids on five fields in really four days. It's just a real big need we've had here."

Jackson Parks & Recreation director Shane Anderson said the city has not usually been involved in developing fields for any one particular league, which puts the initiative on JAOSA.

"This is really for the Jackson soccer community, not just a JAOSA park," Litzelfelner said. "But we're kind of spearheading this thing and making it happen."

A by-product of the complex will be the conversion of the five city soccer fields to other use.

"I know they have a need for football and softball, but just no place to put them," Litzelfelner said.

JAOSA secured the donation of a flood-plain area from the Jackson Industrial Development Council. The city will supply access roads and utilities for the facility.

"It's really the recreational use of a flood-plane area, which was really a neat use of that area," Anderson said. "Otherwise it was a non-usable area."

Litzelfelner said with a premium on land, it's common for soccer parks to locate in flood plains. He's not real concerned about the consequences of flooding.

"The flood water doesn't stay their very long," he noted.

The project budget of $250,000 calls for 19 fields of various sizes, concessions, restrooms and playground. Litzelfelner said JAOSA will rely on personal and corporate donations and fund-raisers and will pursue secure federal grant money.

"If we raise the money we hope to have it all ready by next fall," Litzelfelner said. "One of the ultimate goal is to play some tournaments over here like they do over in Cape, which would fund the development as well."

Koehler Engineering and Surveying Inc. has surveyed the property and helped develop plans.

(573) 335-6611, extension 124

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