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Posted Apr 17, 2012, 12:55 pm
FC Tucson now can say they have a home field thanks to the Pima County Board of Supervisors. As part of their regular Tuesday morning business, the board voted 5 – 0 to convert fields at the Kino Sports Complex from baseball to soccer.
Although the agreement is with FC Tucson and there was an emphasis on youth sports, there was another goal.
“This agreement that we have in front of us today … will put us in a position to have ten [Major League Soccer] teams here for the Desert Diamond Cup and spring training,” said Supervisor Richard Elías, wearing a scarf for the FC Tucson supporters group, the Cactus Pricks.
“We’re talking about millions of dollars for our community,” he continued.
The board voted to “develop an appropriate use agreement” with FC Tucson, who not only field a team in the Premier Development League, but staged the Desert Diamond Cup and Major League Soccer preseason training in Tucson.
The agreement would allow FC Tucson to use and manage field 5, north of Ajo Way, and the locker room facility, both built to accommodate Major League Baseball, as a home field. It would also establish a use period for the other fields in the northern part of the complex for soccer.
"Offset" but not offside
Details of the agreement are still to be worked out, but County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry is expecting the costs of field conversion and operation to be “offset.”
“We will be working on an appropriate reimbursement arrangement for the conversion of field 5 permanently,” he said in remarks to the board.
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The willingness of FC Tucson to pitch in for the costs for maintaining the facility was emphasized by Supervisor Ann Day.
“Their proposal is a breath a fresh air. FC Tucson worked hard, and continues to work hard, to prove its credibility and they are bearing and shouldering the costs of this tremendous opportunity and vision to make Pima County the western training hub of Major League Soccer,” she said. “It’s putting its money where its mouth is, and that’s positive.”
FC Tucson said Tuesday in a press release they will begin construction on the expansion of seating at field 5 and complete it in time for its first scheduled home game with the Southern California Seahorses on May 19.
All soccer is local
Although members of the board emphasized that both baseball and soccer will be able to use the facilities at Kino, there is still lingering bitterness in the community about the loss of Major League Baseball. Elías called that a “decision made by people far away.”
FC Tucson Managing Partner Greg Foster emphasized that his team is local and not moving, and that even MLS preseason in Tucson was something that came from here and not somewhere else.
“[Preseason training] is an event that our community is helping to invent,” Foster said, “and we’re now helping Major League Soccer make it into an event with teams playing at public parks into an event that brings 30,000 people to Kino stadium.”