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Soccer club proposes six full-size fields at sports park

Fifty acres can support a lot of athletic fields. The First Hernando Youth Soccer Club hopes to fill a significant part of the 50 acres at the Anderson Snow Park sports complex with soccer fields.

The club has submitted a proposal to the County Commission to fund the development of six soccer fields at the park. In the proposal, the club says it has raised more than $100,000 to support the creation of the fields.

While the commission has not seen the proposal, Commissioner Paul Sullivan was receptive to the idea.

"It's ripe for development," Sullivan said of the sports complex. "It's just flat, rolling land. . . . I can't imagine anyone being opposed to them providing the money."

Four baseball fields are under construction at the complex, which otherwise has just two parking lots occupying its vast expanse. Four more baseball/softball fields may be built by the county on the site, but they have not been budgeted.

Allowing for eight ball fields, there's still plenty of room for six soccer fields.

The soccer club's proposal has a diagram of the complex. According to the diagram, with eight ball fields, six full-size soccer fields and four smaller soccer fields, which the club hopes to build someday, there still would be room on the site to construct multiple courts or fields for another sport, perhaps tennis or basketball.

The commission next meets Jan. 12, but according to interim Deputy County Administrator Dick Radacky, the commission's agenda for that meeting is full. The soccer proposal likely will be considered Jan. 19 or 26.

"I haven't seen (the proposal), but we'll take a look at it and determine if it's doable from a project standpoint," Radacky said. "We'll get it on the agenda (on the 19th or 26th), probably."

The soccer club has almost 700 youths playing for its recreational and/or competitive teams. The competitive teams, which compete in multiple age groups against club teams from around the state, are called the Hernando Heat. The club has raised money through various events and by sponsoring an annual tournament, the Nature Coast Invitational. The club also has secured eight local businesses as donors to assist in the field construction project.

"What we're hoping to do is create a community bandwagon effect," said Mark Lorenzetti, chairman of the soccer club. The club has received many in-kind donations and hopes to get more, he said.

The ability to hold large invitational tournaments _ which would be aided by the proposed fields _ is a key component of the club's proposal. Large tournaments that attract numerous teams for multiple-night stays in the area have the potential to generate large sums of money for the county.

"Over the long term . . . the county would be better off because of the increased revenue because of the guests," Sullivan said.

Besides the cost of developing the fields, maintenance funding must also be worked out. The club's proposal calls for the county to provide maintenance, with the club "donating funds each year to defray a portion of the county's maintenance cost."

"The question then would be, how are we going to maintain it, and who's going to fund what," Radacky said.

The county bought the 50 acres of land off Anderson Snow Road for $237,500 in 1995, for the purpose of developing athletic fields. In May, the commission budgeted $166,218 for the development of the four baseball fields.