Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA


June 12, 2012

Soccer fields at sports complex near completion

CENTERVILLE — This year’s projected improvements to the Morgan E. Cline Sports Complex at the south end of Main Street include seeding and leveling the soccer fields and adding two baseball fields.  

Many Centerville youth who play soccer do a lot of traveling to other towns, said Rachel Hoffman, a board member of Appanoose All Play Inc., the non-profit that runs the sports complex. When the fields are done, the complex will begin hosting larger weekend tournaments that bring in youth and their families from other towns.

“This will be a little closer than commuting clear to Chariton or Kirksville,” she said. “In turn there is a huge economic impact having something of this quality and caliber here in our community. The tournaments especially will have a huge economic impact on our hotels, our businesses, our restaurants.”

Hoffman said a big step toward finishing the soccer fields occurred recently when a crew working on the new Wal-Mart donated dirt from that site and spread it out on the fields. She estimated this donation of dirt and labor saved All Play between $150,000 and $200,000.

The soccer fields still need professional laser leveling and seeding, steps that will cost approximately $25,000. Hoffman said receiving one or more donations totaling $25,000 would be the final step necessary to start transforming Appanoose County into a regional destination for soccer competitions.

The sports complex has faced a few obstacles. For example, she said, $30,000 worth of seed was planted just days before heavy rains flooded parts of the county in 2010. The floods, along with damaging county bridges and roads, also washed away the ungerminated seed. As a result work got behind and projects started costing more than estimated when the bids became outdated.

“It would have been much easier to just throw our hands up at one point, but come hell or high water we were going to get it done,” Hoffman said.

Despite the delay in finishing the soccer fields, the sports complex has had its own soccer expert for two years in Program Director Justin Rhodes.

Rhodes, who played soccer all around the world as part of the Marine Corps’ All-Marine Team, moved to Appanoose County three years ago. His previous job was as director of coaching for the Concorde Fire Soccer Club in Atlanta, Ga., a youth club that produces large numbers of college soccer players.

Rhodes and his wife moved here after searching for a small-town atmosphere where they could raise their children, Michael, 10, and Savannah, 9. He and his wife, Valarie, grew up in upstate New York and attended a school with 320 students K-12.

“We moved up here because of a lot of reasons, but the No. 1 reason was to get my kids into a great educational situation,” Rhodes said.

They narrowed their search to four places and eventually chose this one because of the hunting. Rhodes said another factor was that every person they contacted ahead of time, from school principals to real estate agents to pastors, got back with them right away with information about the area.

They have found the small-town values they were looking for. Rhodes said his children never played outside unsupervised until they moved to Iowa.

“We live in Moulton,” Rhodes said. “Our kids can play till the streetlights come on, and they’re safe.”

Rhodes said whether or not there were soccer coaching opportunities here did not factor into the decision. He got involved with the sports complex when he saw an ad in the paper.

“I thought, ‘This is a great idea,’” he said. “I believe in the concept that youth sports can be life changing. … You read about some of the things in this community that hit the media like the abuse rate and the obesity rate and the social economics of the place, and when you have programs like this you can really make a difference.”

He said he hopes to add flag football to the complex’s offerings by this time next year. He said phases two and three of the project could include a skateboard park, a basketball court, sand volleyball courts and even an indoor facility.

“If I could give this area one thing it would be an indoor facility,” Rhodes said. “It is so cold here, and if you could have something for the youth in the area throughout the winter for off-season training it would do a lot.”

Hoffman said the project is still in its first phase, which incudes the soccer and baseball fields and the concession stand. The concession stand building is completed, and Hoffman said All Play is currently raising money to purchase concession equipment like a popcorn machine and an ice machine.

Currently, the softball fields are being used heavily by the youth softball leagues and the YMCA T-ball program for practice, games and tournaments. The complex hosts an archery event each month, and the adult softball league starts June 5.

The sports complex’s 40 acres are surrounded by approximately 400 acres that comprise the Lelah Bradley Active Living Campus administered by the Appanoose County Conservation Board. The campus is intended to maintain the natural vegetation and wildlife of the area while cultivating recreational activities. Hoffman said it will someday include cabins, a community garden and outdoor classrooms along with the many miles of recreational trails that already exist.

Rhodes said the complex is always looking for volunteers to continue the work. Some of the needs include putting bleachers together, mowing grass, painting, weeding and general upkeep.  

“It’s just been a lot of people rolling their sleeves up in their community to make it happen,” Rhodes said. “We are looking for people to volunteer because we’ve got a ton of things that can be done on a daily basis.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Rhodes at 641-856-9009.

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