Local soccer players are complaining that a new project will shrink the dimensions of an important city playing field.
Construction began over the summer at Turley Field, a soccer pitch next to the Parks and Recreation Department on Hohokam Drive, for a project that will upgrade the field’s irrigation system and add a walking path around the pitch.
But the walking path, ringed by a concrete barrier, will also reduce the length of the field.
Scott Vandervoet, a local produce importer and member of a Nogales-based adult soccer league, spoke about the changes at a city council meeting on Sept. 10.
“Turley Field was the only field that provided adequate dimensions for adults and adolescents over 14,” he said.
Vandervoet said the field had been 100, or even 110 yards long before the walking path, but now would not reach the 90-yard minimum length for a full-size field.
City Parks and Recreation Director Marcel Bachelier estimated a more modest change. He said the field was previously 89 or 90 yards long and would be reduced to 85 or 87 yards.
Brian Hernandez, president of the local AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) and Santa Cruz soccer leagues, said that his leagues included more than 300 youth players and around 450 adults that used to play on Turley, which he said was the only full-size, lighted field open to the recreational leagues.
Those teams also play games on fields at Nogales-area schools, but Vandervoet said that’s not enough.
“I don’t think that the community should rely on the schools for sports facilities. The schools have other priorities. The city should provide a full-size soccer field for its residents and visitors.”
He said that it’s another example of the city favoring facilities for baseball over soccer: “We’ve always been treated as second-class citizens.”
Vandervoet and Hernandez both said they were surprised to see concrete walls going up within the boundaries of the old field this summer; they knew about the plans for maintenance work but did not know that it would decrease the field’s size.
“Instead of getting improvements for our soccer community, they’re limiting our fields,” Hernandez said.
But Bachelier said that the field, which is also used for other activities such as the city’s Independence Day celebration, was not originally intended to be a full-size pitch. He added that he thinks the adult soccer players will be able to continue using it with the new dimensions.
“I think we thought this out as best we could, to minimize the impact and still end up with a product that the soccer population, the walkers, the rest of the community as it relates to big community events, could all benefit (from) and enjoy the improvements to the facility,” he said.