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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.


(4) comments

Wi Fan

Any time that someone makes something from nothing, the city will show up with it's hand out to take it away. That area was unusable until the soccer folks came in and made it into a premier complex; with no help from the city. Full disclosure, I am not a soccer fan but I appreciate the organization's drive and their looking out for our kids. Instead of hassling them, the city should thank them for the revenue they bring into our tourist industry.


"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." How anyone can read this article and feel that La Crosse is "being taken advantage of" escapes me. From a tourism standpoint, an athletic standpoint and from a recreational standpoint, this park is a HUGE asset to the La Crosse area and our kids. This isn't a cutesy little kids' park, folks, it's a major player in Western Wisconsin soccer, a sport that continues to get more and more popular in our area and many others. And, did you ever see how much a soccer player has to run? Think that could be a boon for the physical conditioning and health of 100's of kids per year, or 1,000's of kids over the years? Support of this park by city authorities is a no - brainer. Whatever the city invests in this part is paying enormous dividends to the city. Why would somebody mess with that? It would make no sense.

Tim Russell

It's not a City Park. And when my kids were actively participating in the Club, the majority of the kids were not from the City of La Crosse.
The biggest problem is that they want to charge the High Schools for using the Fields and don't care if their ability to charge the School District results in a loss of the Mutual Use Agreement the City has regarding City and School District Facilities. The loss of such Mutual Use Agreement will result in the end of Park & Rec Dept. Basketball & Volleyball programs.


My children were active in the club also. I want to speak to a couple of things related to your comment:
1) "...the majority of the kids were not from the City of La Crosse." The city charges the club a 'non-resident player' fee for each player registered who does not reside in the City of La Crosse.
2)"The biggest problem is that they want to charge the High Schools for using the Fields..."To my knowledge, the club has never wanted to charge the High Schools to use the fields. Rather, they want to be able to charge the schools for damage they cause through misuse. Under the current agreement, the club is not allowed to bill the high school teams responsible for the costs incurred to repair and replace the things they damage.

Two examples I was given:
a) team/coaches/staff drove an AWD maintenance vehicle across a soft field which which left ruts that had to be repaired.
b) A high school team left club-owned scoreboard and PA equipment out in the rain which ruined it. It had to be replaced by the club. They were not permitted to bill the school.

Recently, the city demanded $30-$40,000 from the club saying the club had improperly charged for parking at tournament events. Instead of simply telling the club "You can't do that anymore." the city created a bit of a financial and legal crisis for the club and said, in essence, "That money is ours. Pay us now."

The club is responsible for 100% of the maintenance of the facility; eg turf care, mowing, lights, irrigation, flood repairs. It all costs money. The city doesn't help them with this. Instead, you could say their bullying tactics have increased this burden because the club now has to pay legal fees on top of all the other costs.

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