By Josh Peterson, editor
After years of trying and planning, it looks like Manchester youth soccer players will finally have a place to call home.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced last week 50 grants to go out across the state, including a $175,000 matching grant to go to Manchester to develop soccer fields at the recently purchased Manchester Sports Park.
“We have been trying to get soccer fields for going on 15 years now if you really think about it,” said director of Manchester Parks and Recreation Bonnie Gamble.
“This is a huge first step. We finally have money dedicated.”
The grant is a 50-50 match, meaning Manchester needed to come up with $175,000 for the application process. But the cash is coming from Park Partners, a local nonprofit, and the Coffee County Youth Soccer League – not the City of Manchester. Park Partners is putting up $120,000 towards the match and the soccer league is putting up $5,000. The other $50,000 will come in the form of in-kind labor matches.
“The $50,000 the city is responsible for is from the use of equipment, man hours and such,” explained Gamble. “We will install the irrigation system ourselves so that counts towards that.”
Work is expected to begin in the spring to start adding soccer fields on the recently acquired property that rests next to Waite St. and McMinnville Highway.
Gamble said the park will be developed in phases.
“The plan is to eventually have at least four soccer fields there,” said Gamble, adding that only three fields will be added for now. “This phase calls for three fields, including a regulation size field, no lights, gravel parking, no restrooms or permanent concession facilities.”
Originally, soccer facilities were planned to go on land donated by the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. But a wetlands issue put a snag in that process.
“The wetlands meant not as much usable acreage as the Manchester Sports Park,” explained Gamble. “And the previous board [of mayor and aldermen] felt like we should develop the land we purchased.”
“Our quality of life is directly linked to the quality of our parks and outdoor spaces,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam in a press release. “Recreational facilities are important not only to Tennesseans but for the many visitors we attract to our state each year. I’ve had the opportunity to visit several of these communities throughout the last few weeks and I am pleased to be in a position to provide funding for the benefit of all Tennesseans.”
In total, $6.9 million in grants were awarded statewide.
Manchester purchased the land in 2010 and received a $135,000 grant to expand the Little Duck River Greenway through the property and along the river and that was completed last summer.
-Josh Peterson can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.