A horde of soccer players last Thursday took over nearly every patch of available grass at Oro Valley’s Riverfront Park off Lambert Lane.
A handful of local teams, the CDO Soccer Club included, competed for space on the park’s two soccer fields, coach Steve Wallace said.
A weeklong David Beckham Academy soccer camp only added to the crush.
By last Friday, space no longer was in such short supply.
The Beckham soccer camp fielded 48 youngsters, who spent Friday evening working in small groups on a single field at Riverfront, a field that already showed significant wear and tear from the season. The areas around its goals had been worn down to the dirt of the desert floor.
“We could have easily filled (the Beckham camp) three times over,” said Wallace, an Oro Valley resident who hails from Newcastle, England.
To have 48 kids on one field is pushing it, the coach said. Add those numbers to the scores of others who use field space at Riverfront and at James D. Kriegh Park, where baseball and softball diamonds must be converted to soccer fields, and Oro Valley’s really up against it, Wallace added.
“Every year I have the same battle for space,” he said.
Wallace’s plight, the same for many area coaches, serves as visual reminder of why many in Oro Valley are pushing for the Nov. 4 passage of $48.6 million in bonds to help build a new park off Naranja Drive, not far from town hall.
The proposed park would feature four soccer fields, eight baseball and softball fields and numerous other sports courts.
Even if Oro Valley voters were to approve borrowing money to build the park, the facility remains at least two years in the offing. And, it couldn’t come soon enough, to hear Wallace and others who support the park describe their travails.
“We’re under-parked,” Susan Zibrat said succinctly last Friday evening.
Zibrat and others this year formed a political action committee to stump for the park bond’s passage. And, in Wallace and the hundreds who play on CDO Soccer Club teams, the park’s backers have found compelling advocates for their cause.
In the past three years, the CDO Soccer Club has grown from seven teams to 25 teams. Its ranks include 300 players, according to Wallace.
The “sheer volume of play has degraded (town) fields” and sent parents and kids far and wide for games and tournaments.
“Almost every (game) is in mid-Tucson,” said Lisa Powell, who watched last Friday as her daughter took part in the Beckham soccer camp.
Adult players, who have their own leagues, must always subordinate their convenience for the sake of the youthful players.
The young get first dibs on the town fields at Riverfront and Kriegh.
Most of the area schools’ fields remain unlighted, Powell said, and whether league teams can use those facilities depends on the auspices of the Amphitheater School District, which has several schools in Oro Valley.
The kids ran wild on the field last Friday.
The Beckham Academy, based in Los Angeles, has only recently taken its offerings on the road. The group gets its name from the international star David Beckham, who after years playing in the U.K., last year joined the L.A. Galaxy squad.
The camp’s mission is simple, said Director of Coaching Mo Boreham: Get more and more kids to play soccer.
That, of course, could prove problematic for Oro Valley, Wallace frets.
“There’s more and more families coming here,” he said, which will create more players and increase the need for more fields.
Opponents of the proposed Naranja park, however, question the immensity of the need for it.
Many deem the multi-field plan an extravagance, one that, at nearly $50 million, the town cannot afford. Passage of the bonds would mean that Oro Valley would levy a property tax.
Estimates have put the tax at 52 cents per $100 of assessed value in the first year of the borrowing.
The rate would decrease each year until 2033, according to town estimates.
Many park opponents, in letters railing against the ballot measure, have cited the faltering economy as reason enough not to pass the bonds.
In pre-election ballot materials, one couple wrote that the park “would be a place for those to congregate who deal in drugs and other vices.”
That’s an argument that seemed to irk the CDO Soccer Club’s Wallace.
Leagues and other potential park users “increase the number of positive activities” for kids, he said. “My hope is that it goes through.”