Kokomo Backs 60-Acre Soccer Complex

Sixty acres of the city, hidden from view and from time for decades, are about to become the site of a soccer revolution.

City and Kokomo Soccer Club officials gathered Tuesday to unveil plans for a new Wildcat Creek Soccer Complex on Kokomo’s near west side.

The complex, which is expected to be up and operating by August 2012, will be home to around 30 fields, accommodating all ages and levels of club soccer.

“I believe with all my heart this will change how Kokomo looks at the sport, and it will do so much good for all the kids,” KSC president Amy Pitzer said.

Currently based on a corner property owned by Haynes International, the soccer club has been looking to expand for some time.

But it wasn’t until Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight started talking to the club about a portion of the former Continental Steel site that those plans began to take off.

Over the past two years, work crews funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have excavated portions of the soccer complex area, and have installed a 2-foot-thick soil cover over the entire area.

The former Continental Steel operated several drying beds in the area, where neutralized acids were stored.

Those drying beds are now under the soil cover, and Tuesday, EPA and Indiana Department of Environmental Management officials said the site is now safe to be used for athletic fields.

“Today we celebrate the beginning of a new era, and the closing of another era,” Goodnight said. “From this day forward, this ground will serve the community in a more positive manner.”

The plan is for the city to acquire the property, and to enter into a long-term lease with the soccer club, club officials said. The city also plans to install two parking lots, and build a walking path to loop around the perimeter of the park.

The biggest change for the soccer club will be the fact it’ll now have enough fields to host tournaments, and draw in teams from around the area and out of state.

Many cities have come to see youth soccer tournaments as more than just athletic contests.

The city of Westfield, for instance, is making a $45 million bet that a new 32-field complex will draw upwards of 500,000 visitors to Westfield each year.

Westfield Mayor Andy Cook told The Indianapolis Star he believes the complex will bring in $5 million in restaurant tabs, $3.5 million in shopping bills and about 42,000 requests for hotel rooms.

“We only have two hotels now, and one of them is going to get swallowed up by a new highway. But I believe once word gets out and they see we are doing this, others will come,” Cook told the Star.

Pitzer said KCS’ current facility, which has two full-sized fields and two small fields for younger children, simply isn’t large enough.

The entrance to the new complex will be in the 1500 block of West Markland Avenue, across the street from the Howard County Sheriff Department and next to the city’s wastewater plant.

City engineer Carey Stranahan said the city will put down a temporary surface for parking next year, using grindings from street paving. Eventually, there will be a permanent asphalt parking lot, with grass overflow parking for tournaments.

In the coming months, the EPA plans to finalize reuse plans for the property, plans which are almost certain to include requirements that the soil cap remain undisturbed. That means it won’t be possible to build anything on the site which would require footers, such as permanent buildings.

To get to this point, contractors Bowyer Excavating moved around 300,000 tons of soil to the site.

City, state and federal officials will continue to monitor the site. Some settling of the earth is expected, and Stranahan said the EPA will fix any settling which occurs over the next five years.

Remediating the site has cost the federal government about $8.5 million, according to EPA project manager Nabil Fayoumi. The cleanup was part of a 12-year effort which has cost close to $40 million. All but $5.1 million of that total, which was paid by the state of Indiana, came from federal funds.

Scott Smith of the Kokomo Tribune

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