816 North

Hey, Northland: Beautiful new soccer fields now closer to you


The new soccer village in Swope Park is an impressive sight.

Those of you whose lives don’t revolve around year-round youth soccer games and practices may wonder: What’s the big deal?

But if you are like me and have driven approximately 67,895,213 miles taking kids to soccer fields on the farthest fringes of the metropolitan area for years, then you can understand how I feel.

Two weekends ago, the 15-year-old daughter’s team was playing in a tournament at fields near Kenneth and Holmes roads. That’s about a 25-mile round trip from our Brookside abode.

I can’t imagine how long it took to drive back and forth from Liberty for one player and her dad I saw there.

For us it was two games on Saturday and two games on Sunday.

Even with my limited math skills, I know that’s a lot of driving.

It was worth it, though, to see said daughter score the sudden-death game-winning goal in overtime of the championship game. (College coaches, feel free to contact me at the email address below).

A few weekends earlier, the 9-year-old played in a tournament at fields in western Shawnee. That was about a 30-mile round trip for us, times four, carry the one, divide by ... um ... sorry, limited math skills.

Anyway, it was a long way. But again, it was worth it to see our team take the championship.

League games are not much better from a driving perspective. Both girls play either at the beautiful Overland Park Soccer Complex or Heritage Park, which is (checking Mapquest), good Lord, nearly a 50-mile round trip.

But now, we in the heart of Kansas City have our own beautiful expanse of all-weather turf fields we can call our own. Now, soccer parents from the outer suburbs will be the ones making those long drives to cheer on their future Landon Donovans and Mia Hamms.

The new complex replaces the old grass fields that were, weather permitting, not completely awful, unless a flock of geese had been there. You haven’t lived until you pick up goose droppings on an expanse of dew-sodden grass.

During my first early evening visit to the village, the youngest daughter’s team was among the dozens of kids and coaches at practice on the same fields they will be playing on. Practices before had been at city parks or fields at schools and churches, often without goals.

A real-life, state-sanctioned boys varsity game was going on, complete with paying fans and cheerleaders.

Build it and they will come, indeed.

My oldest daughter is 30 and she was about 7 when she first started playing soccer. Her five younger siblings have all played.

And it seems I have spent a significant portion of my adult life scuffling around on soccer field sidelines or driving back and forth to them.

Judging by the youngest girl’s interest in and skill at playing soccer (college coaches who like to plan for the future, feel free to contact me at the address below), I will continue to scuffle along those sidelines until I’m about 82.

But thanks to the foresight of those responsible for the new fields, at least I won’t have to drive halfway to Topeka every weekend to do it.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.