January 14, 2013 9:54:40 AM
Sarah Fowler - firstname.lastname@example.org
Two of Mississippi's largest youth soccer tournaments are coming to the Columbus Soccer Complex.
Officials with Columbus-Lowndes Parks and Recreation Department won bids against other soccer complexes in the state to host the 2013 Coaches Cup Tournament and the 2014 Presidents Cup Tournament.
The Coaches Cup Tournament will be held Nov. 2-3. The Presidents Cup will be held May 24-25, 2014.
Roger Short, Director for CLRA said he is very pleased that Columbus will be hosting the much-coveted tournaments.
"We're very excited about it,'' Short said. "We've got a lot of experience with softball and baseball tournaments and we're very confident we're going to be able to do a good job," he said.
Short said that without the support of the Columbus Convention and Visitor's Bureau, hosting the tournaments would not have been possible.
"The CCVB has been instrumental in helping us secure the funding for the tournaments," he said. " They are a great economic impact for the city and the county."
The Presidents Cup is the largest soccer tournament in the state, drawing teams from all over the state. Last year, the tournament drew more than 150 teams.
The Coaches Cup is expected to have a minimum of 70 teams and marks the end of the fall season for the players.
"(The Coaches Cup) is a pretty big tournament and something to be really excited about," said Greg Lewis, the director of programs for the CLRA.
When it opened, the new soccer complex was criticized for a lack of parking (331 parking spaces) and restrooms (only one facility). Officials are working to address those problems before the tournaments arrive, however.
Nancy Carpenter, director of the CCVB, said she plans to meet with Short, Lewis, Mayor Robert Smith and Lowndes County Supervisor and Board President Harry Sanders this week to address those issues.
"We are not waiting," she said. "We know what has to be done before November to be able to host a soccer tournament. That work is starting this week."
Carpenter said the tournaments will help Columbus establish itself as a top soccer venue.
"This is an opportunity to put Columbus in a premiere spot when it comes to hosting soccer tournaments," she said. "We will do whatever it takes and put our best foot forward. We are so excited. We have a master plan and it's going to work. "
Lewis said the Presidents Cup, in particular, will bring plenty of visitors to Columbus.
"It's a huge economic impact," he said. "They will need at least 1,000 rooms. We're talking about non-drivers so they'll be here with their parents, their grandparents, aunts and uncles. It is a huge tournament for Columbus or anybody that secures it because it brings in a lot of people over the course of a weekend."
The $5-million soccer complex, a collaborative effort between the City of Columbus and Lowndes County, was completed in September 2012. The 70-acre complex has 10 fields.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.