You can be excused if you haven’t seen or experienced one of the better volunteer success stories in La Crosse.
If you’re not a soccer parent or don’t drive around the La Crosse Industrial Park, you might not understand how a field of soccer dreams has risen from a flood plain.
The multi-field complex known as Fields for Kids hasn’t exactly been an overnight success. In fact, it has been 20 years in the making — with tens of thousands of volunteer hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars in private investment.
The soccer fields regularly host almost 600 boy and girl soccer players from our area. The complex hosts kids from the La Crosse parks and recreation department. It also hosts Central and Aquinas high school soccer teams at no charge, and it has helped host college soccer over the years, too.
But this weekend is something special.
This weekend, the 52-acre site is hosting the Coulee Cup — a tournament featuring 125 soccer teams from six states, including the Coulee Region.
That means nearly 6,000 people, including about 1,900 players. Many are coming from outside the region. They’ll fill hotel rooms and restaurants, providing an estimated economic impact of nearly $1 million.
The land is on city property, and, from time to time, there has been acrimony during lease negotiations.
We understand that negotiations can lead to hard feelings, and we appreciate the need to be good stewards of city resources.
But let’s not lose sight of the goal here: We should figure out how to best use underdeveloped land and provide hours of joys for so many kids in our area.
The group now known as Rush Wisconsin West Soccer Club has erected lights and maintained fields — part of an investment of more than $600,000.
That’s a bill that taxpayers didn’t have to foot.
The soccer group has continued to ramp up the quality of instruction, with an eye toward preparing those who are interested an opportunity to continue playing on the collegiate level. That also means that fewer kids have to go elsewhere for the instruction they need — a big expense for families.
The group also has developed soccer programs for children with special needs.
By any measure, this has been a winning program for our region.
Negotiations with the city continue, and soccer officials say they’re optimistic about reaching an agreement before the holidays.
We urge the city to continue working with the soccer group to develop a fair, long-range agreement that allows for more investment in the soccer fields and more opportunity for tournament growth and continued economic development.
In the rush to make sure the city isn’t being taken advantage of on the property, it might make sense to consider two words that we should share with the soccer supporters: Thank you.