Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Olympic Development Program Under 13 players Leanne Indovino, front, and Hannah Ellis take a break during a tournament at the Jack Allen Recreation Complex in April. The complex played a major role in luring two major Alabama Youth Soccer Association tournaments to Decatur.
Decatur lands major soccer tournaments
By Catherine Godbey
Take a top-notch soccer facility, add a little hospitality and you have one of the premiere soccer sites in Alabama.
The latest score? 150 teams, 3,000 players, filled hotel rooms and a November need — Italian restaurants for carbs. Since the completion of the Jack Allen Recreation Complex two years ago, soccer associations are pursuing Decatur to host tournaments.
Coming after Decatur
“Events come after us now,” Kelly Varnell, Parks and Recreation site coordinator for the Jack Allen Recreation Complex, said. “They ask us what dates we have available and say they want their events here.”
At the Decatur Parks and Recreation Board meeting last week, Varnell informed members of two additional tournaments.
The Alabama Youth Soccer Association accepted Decatur’s bid to host the Governor’s Cup and the State Cup for three years.
The Division I and II State Cups and the Governor’s Cup will take place the first two weekends of November from 2007 — 2009.
Each weekend, over 150 teams and 3,000 players will participate. The Alabama Youth Soccer Association will use 19 fields during the tournament.
“We placed a bid out to host the tournament last year,” said Varnell. “The AYSA initially wanted 20 fields. We told them we could only supply 19 and they said, ‘Tell us what you can do. We want you hosting the event,” Varnell said.
Decatur will also host Division I and II State Cups on back-to-back weekends in May from 2008 — 2010. “This event is not as large as the November events but we are told at least one of the weekends will have at least 150 teams,” Varnell said.
Scott Spencer, director of coaching for the Alabama Youth Soccer Association, said the association’s staff weighs a variety of factors when selecting a site.
For this tournament, the association scoured the state, including Birmingham and Huntsville, to find an appropriate venue.
“The AYSA selected Decatur because everytime we’ve been there the people are very accommodating, the hotels great, and the fields are spectacular, which is the most vital thing,” Spencer said.
The tournaments highlight Decatur as a topnotch soccer city while impacting Decatur’s economic system. Varnell believes that Decatur hotels will benefit from both tournaments. “This tournament is so large the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau is going to Madison for more hotel rooms,” Varnell said.
Lori Boger, group sales director of the Visitor’s Bureau, thinks the tournament the first weekend in November will fill at least 14 hotels.
“For every AYSA tournament they come in, do site visits and decide which properties to use,” said Boger. “We had to look outside of Decatur because the number of properties in Decatur approved by the AYSA wouldn’t house all of the participants.”
She said at least nine properties in Decatur, four properties in Madison and a property in Hartselle will house the tournament players, referees and staff.
Housing tournament participants is only one issue associated with hosting an event with 3,000 participants.
The Parks and Recreation Department employees are figuring out how to fill 6,000 goody bags and feed the participants.
Participants will receive goody bags stuffed with samples of sports-related items and coupons to local businesses.
“We want to add anything to the goody bags that may add to their stay,” said Varnell. “A lot of the players will have a lot of down time and we want to give them options to keep them in Decatur. ... We hope that they will not only come back for soccer tournaments but also just to visit.”
To receive feedback about Decatur, the Visitors Bureau surveys participants. “Hospitality is one of the biggest things they like,” said Vanrell. “Not just from the people at the soccer fields but from everyone in the community.”
The surveys note what the city lacks.
“The only complaint we’ve received is that there aren’t enough restaurants,” Varnell said. Julianne Lowman, Point Mallard marketing coordinator, said event participants are always asking her for restaurant suggestions, especially Italian.
“They all want Italian, for the pasta and the carbs,” she said.
To alleviate the restaurant problem, board member, Joel Sandlin, suggested supplying the teams with boxed
Sandlin said providing the teams with boxed lunches would eliminate the problem of overcrowded restaurants and allow food establishments to benefit financially from the tournament by catering and supplying items for the lunches.
As interest in the Jack Allen Recreation Complex increases, the Parks and Recreation
Department finds itself balancing local use and external use.
Parks and Recreation Department Assistant Director Grady Tyler, asked, “Where do we have to draw the line (on external tournaments) and take care of our local participants.”
Board Chairman Dr. Randy Riehl agreed.
“We definitely need to walk the line between local use and outside use,” he said. Equalizing outside tournaments with local use will continue to be problematic as more people learn about Decatur’s soccer facilities.
“We have become the site people want to become, have or better,” Varnell said.
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!