Soccer fields opened to other sports
For several years, Copper Hills Lacrosse has petitioned West Jordan City for permission to use two fields at the Utah Youth Soccer Complex for practice and games. Mayor Melissa Johnson explained to the city council that this appeal is “one of several requests for the fields to be used for more than one purpose.” Councilmember Justin Stoker added that “a number of residents have expressed concern that it seemed a little arbitrary, restricting it to soccer only, without any really great reasons why.”
In a 4-3 decision, the council voted Nov. 14 in favor of allowing all youth sport leagues access to four of the 22 fields at the complex. The four fields, located in the northeast corner of the property, are owned exclusively by the city. The land for the remaining 18 fields is leased from the Federal Aviation Administration and will remain dedicated entirely to soccer in accordance with the lease agreement.
Doug Willden, with Copper Hills Lacrosse, was pleased with the council’s decision. “I think it’s great. It gives us a place to play,” he said. “Lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport in the state and the nation.”
However, soccer is also a growing sport, and that has members of the West Jordan soccer community concerned with the council’s decision. They feel their teams already face a shortage of fields, due in part to the need to “rest” four fields each year. “Even when we had all the fields, there weren’t enough for soccer,” said Juan Canals, league president for West Jordan Youth Soccer. “By opening it to lacrosse and football, we have even less.” Additionally, he feels that with lacrosse, football, soccer and rugby all potentially using the fields, they will be overused, damaged and won’t receive sufficient “rest.”
Canals is also concerned that the city is establishing a trend of making decisions that affect soccer without seeking their input. “We feel they don’t care how it affects the end user. It’s frustrating. Our league keeps getting squeezed out and at no point do they say, ‘How will this affect you?’.”
During discussions, several council members acknowledged that the decision would affect the soccer community. “The political impact here is that soccer is growing, the demand is growing and expanding, so this will have impact there, but the same can be said about the other sports that we’ve identified here tonight,” Councilmember Ben Southworth said. “But we’re trying to help the youth of the city to have a fair opportunity. We’re trying to give everybody a fair shot.”
In the end, Mayor Johnson hopes that the community will come together and recognize that the decision was made with the best interest of all the sports taken into consideration.
“I would like to see us not restrict any of our facilities to one chosen sport at the expense of all the other sports,” she said. “I don’t think lacrosse should lose so that soccer can win, because it’s the same constituency, the same group of kids.”
Youth leagues wishing to schedule the fields need to submit an application to the city and will be required to abide by the same rules in place for the soccer leagues. The city currently has policies in place regarding application deadlines and field prioritization. “The only thing that’s changing is who can use the fields,” Johnson said.