Editorial: Tri-State proves itself up to the soccer challenge
Back in April 2008, when officials announced that the biggest regional youth soccer tournament in the land was coming to the Tri-State the following summer, the task seemed daunting.
More fields would have to be created, restrooms and other facilities would have to be built, even a bridge would have to be constructed to accommodate all the traffic that was expected to descend on Barboursville City Park. Hundreds of volunteers would need to be found to deal with the logistics of having about 280 youth soccer teams in the area all at once, not to mention the thousands of parents, coaches, referees and other tournament officials.
The task of hosting the US Youth Soccer Region I Championships was indeed monumental, but the Tri-State and West Virginia proved up to it, by virtually all accounts.
Although it was a scramble, the necessary facilities for last summer's tournament were in place in time. There were some troubles, because the new fields were not in the best condition, and drainage issues coupled with heavy rains disrupted some play.
But tournament organizers and the folks in charge of the Barboursville Soccer Complex in Barboursville City Park and the Scott Orthopedic Soccer Complex in the YMCA Kennedy Center went to work in preparation for this year's event. Grass and drainage on the fields were improved, and specific contingency plans were put in place in case more poor weather meant alternative, artificial fields were needed.
Fortunately, that wasn't necessary. In fact, one possible shortcoming during this year's dry, hot tournament was that the fields were a little too hard. And the heat required some extra medical staff to deal with heat exhaustion.
Overall, though, the tournament went off with very few hitches.
Apart from the organization, however, perhaps the people of the Tri-State were the biggest factor for making the tournament a success -- whether they served in an official capacity, as a volunteer, or among the many local residents who helped out one of the thousands of visitors by answering a question.
One testimonial to the friendliness of local residents came from Chris Branscome, the chief executive officer for Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer. He was in town in preparation for the Region I tourney's move to Lancaster, Pa., next year.
"The hospitality, the volunteers, the personal touches they've tried to put on things here," Branscome noted. " ....That personal touch is one of the key elements that West Virginia has put into that."
The region's two-year commitment to host the tournament is now complete. But the door of opportunity that hosting this tournament has created is far from closed. Already, with an estimated economic impact of $12 million each of the past two years, the few million dollars invested to make the tournament a reality have been recovered.
Based on the apparent success of this two-year deal, the investment in terms of money and hard work by hundreds of people should pay off in years to come. For example, Barboursville is one of two cities in the running to host next year's United States Adult Soccer Association's Veterans Cup tournament, an event for players 30 and older that involves 100 to 125 teams. And it's not unreasonable to expect that other sizable youth tournaments, including a return of the Region 1 Championships, will come to the Tri-State to take advantage of the soccer facilities and the tremendous welcome that we know we can provide.