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Complex :: History

 

History of the Danville Area Soccer Complex

Danville soccer grew with local enthusiasm and the national popularity. Early planners had no way to judge how popular their brainchild would become. Facilities in the early days were at local playgrounds and open spots, including Northeast school, East Park School, and Danville Area Community College.

Practices were in parks, vacant lots, and backyards. Early facilities were basic, with homemade goals anchored in the ground with concrete. Sideline and field markings were made with paint mixed with fuel. The line was easy to feel as well as to see, since no grass could grow there, and deep ruts often developed. Grass was sparse, and most of the green was from weeds. Dry rough terrain was the norm. The only field maintenance was grass mowing and picking up debris.

Pioneers in Danville soccer knew that the fields were not optimal, but they were available. Most vacant tracts of land in Danville had consideration by someone for building better fields. Ideas for a new complex site included Danville Stadium, the Vermilion County Airport, various industrial tracts, and land around the Vermilion County Nursing Home. For years, there was no coincidence of money, time, land availability, and enthusiasm to get the job done. The DSA board of Mike Velleman, Mark Goodwin, Mark Janesky, and Tim Jones became convinced that the time was right.

The chosen site on Winter Avenue met the qualifications best. It required the most site work, but was available without ongoing cost or taxes, since it belongs to Danville District #118 and the City of Danville. It was centrally located in the county, had reasonable access (Winter Avenue traffic is the obvious exception), and had a tradition of recreational use since softball parks flanked it. Power, water, sewer, phone, and parking were all available or reasonably close. Landlords were enthusiastic about the project. Finally, the right site at the right time became available, and the ball was rolling.

Now kids in Danville and across central Illinois would have a first-class soccer complex for practice and play. Planning work began in 1994, with consensus building, gathering community support, and beginning fundraising efforts. Contractual and legal issues were sorted out. A survey let us know where to start. Community interest began to gather, teams of fundraisers approached many sectors of the community, and money began to come our way.

Six fields are named for major donors and for people who played a special role in the development of the complex and Danville soccer. AutoZone was a critical early donor, buying the first field and lending great credibility to the project. Chris Falcon was a key person in the first grant from AutoZone. Soon others followed. The Darby Family bought the second field (and later made a separate generous donation for the irrigation well).

Ray O'Herron had generations of soccer players in his family, and wanted to support them and the youth of the community. Ray is the principal reason the fields are marked with beautiful permanent stone tablets. He remarked that he was happy to give the money (a substantial sum) but did not want any "cheap old plywood sign that would blow down or rot". The limestone monuments on the major fields met his criteria. David Arthur, a skilled stonecutter from Indiana, carved the marker stones for the entryway to the Complex, and on each of the named fields. The limestone came from the Bybee quarry in Elletsville, Indiana. An interesting historical note is that this same quarry is a major source of stone for the Pentagon (original construction and in repair after the September 2001 terrorist attacks), and for the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Pepsi field recognizes that company's community interest, and the soccer association promised to sell Pepsi products for the next 10 years in appreciation. Tom Goodwin field recognizes the lasting contribution that Tom made on the lives of the many kids he coached in DSA, and in his hard dedicated work in beginning and sustaining the Schlarman soccer program. He and his teams spent many practice and play hours at the new complex. His three boys all played DSA with dad as coach, and all were beneficiaries of Tom's work with Schlarman.

Halloran field marks the contributions to Danville soccer of the Halloran family. Tom was the driving force behind the development of the soccer complex, and spent countless hours on every aspect of its development. Darlene was a devoted soccer mom for all 3 kids, was assistant coach of the first DHS girls team, and a dedicated idea person for tournaments, recognitions, and celebrations. All 3 kids played soccer throughout DSA years. John was a fullback at DHS; won the coveted practice socks his first 2 years, and was captain his senior year. Kate sparked the idea, built the consensus, and provided the background push for the first DHS girls' team. Patrick was a goal scorer from his first DSA game and had over 200 goals in his years in DSA. He played varsity all four years at DHS, and was on the regional championship team in 2001, and was the Commercial-News Player of the Year.

Lou Mervis and Cindy Cronkhite were eager early donors. The Mervis family has a long history of support of worthwhile Danville projects. Cindy credits soccer for a large measure of the success of her son, Zach, and wants to extend that opportunity to new generations. Hundreds of citizens, families, businesses, organizations, union members, and companies stepped up to help with contributions large and small. Many paid with hours or services, too, in the collective effort to build the complex.

Danville soccer held "The Longest Day of Soccer" at Northeast School, with play from dawn to dark, for pledges for hours of play. There were games, concessions, kids against the coaches, and great soccer enthusiasm. We raised over $20,000 that day of fun. Everyone got either a black shirt with white logo and lettering, or the reverse. Teams traded their usual colors for white or black that day, and the shirts went home to advertise the new "Danville Area Soccer Complex".

Two separate grants came from US Soccer Federation Foundation for lights, irrigation, and concessions. The State of Illinois helped with building funds and seeding. The Vermilion Healthcare Foundation funded the goals for all of the fields.

Now it was time to build. At the beginning the land was tree and brush covered rolling hills snarled with vines and choked with debris. Over the next four years as work progressed through architect drawings, site work, earth moving, construction, and seeding, the Danville Area Soccer Complex grew from the dream stage to reality.

Paul Offutt has provided very extensive behind the scenes advice and direction (as well as substantial financial assistance) since the inception of the complex. He recommended Dave Phillipi of HDC Engineering to design the complex to take advantage of the natural rolling terrain. The eight fields are stair-stepped plateaus with drainage across the fields, and to swales between them. The elevation falls from 693 to 633 feet above sea level over the 2500' length of the complex. Early brush clearing and leveling started with donations of heavy bulldozers and equipment operators from Offutt Construction, Feutz Construction, and O'Neill Brothers.

Feutz won the contract for the earthwork, for about $180,000. They cleared and burned trees and brush that covered most of the site. Cuts and fills to make the terraces required over 90,000 yards of earth moving. Topsoil, such as it was, was stripped and replaced. Ron Kiser and Arnold Derrickson seeded and fertilized. Don Smith spent a day with his huge straw grinder/mulcher applying straw (with lots of dusty volunteer help). Kyle Finley and other farmers had grown and donated the straw, Dennis Turner baled it, Lowell Fetters drove the tractor to pick it up, and all was hoisted under cover in Halloran's barn. Carol Olson and Renee Rossi hauled loads of straw from barn to field. Dennis Faith of Lebanon Seaboard donated fertilizer many times to nourish the turf.

Kent Janesky located a fairway mower formerly used by the U of I, and its 11' cut kept ahead of the grass. There was plenty of volunteer wheat the first year from the straw mulch. Bob Sedlmayr of Harrison Park researched the grass seed mixture, and we planted improved Kentucky Bluegrass on the fields, with just a bit of perennial rye. The aprons and banks are in tall fescue, which gives a nice contrast to the darker green of the fields.

The summers were dry, and the grass that had looked so lush in the early summer had become a burned desert, with the clay soil baked into concrete beneath. Not ideal for play. Irrigation was the answer. Rich Darby donated the cost of a well. By pure coincidence, the complex is situated over a huge aquifer. A paper written by the hydrogeology department at the U of I documenting the presence of water reassured us that our well could do the job. Beck Well Drilling sank a 110' 6-inch well at the western end of the complex. Test pumping found 500 gallon per minute capacity, twice the need, so we were in business. The 20-horsepower pump, wired by Henry Povolones and plumbed by Joe Cromwell, provides 225 gallons of water each minute.

Randy Lane of Century Golf designed the irrigation system and sold us the materials. Volunteers including Scott Huckstadt laid out and installed the entire system. The irrigation project was a stellar example of the volunteer coordination that is the theme of the entire project. The day the main sprinkler line was installed, we had 6 donated backhoes and operators including Pete Powell, Paul Offutt, Interstate Water, Bob Brown, O'Neill construction. Operators from the Local, led by Tom Taylor ran the equipment. Trenchers from Risser Electric and Illinois Power (run by Bob Wolgamot) cut the trenches in the fields. Joe Cromwell and a crew of licensed plumbers installed the 6" and 4" main pipe and connectors. The entire main line installation was complete in one long day. There was a little excitement when a backhoe cut an unmarked power line (no one was hurt). A couple of 6x2 T's were buried with the opening covered only by duct tape. These were easy to find when the water finally came on.

Field pipe irrigation installation took a lot longer, as the volunteer intensity was less. Several of us learned to cut and glue PVC, and to position sprinkler heads for function and safety. Curt Rush, Joe and Sally Cromwell and kids, Gary Nelson, Mike Stone, Tom Halloran all were key players in the field pipe work. Jeff McMorris, Alex, Bryce, and Jerod all worked with stringing the 8 miles of wire for the controllers and valves.

Scott Huckstadt pitched in with everything from straw mulching to concrete work for the concession stand and pavilions. Mike Puhr loves community service projects. How many guys have their own concrete forms?

The buildings of the complex include two pavilions 24' by 44' for shelter and picnicking, a concession and restroom facility, and a 30' by 45' maintenance building. The pavilions are on concrete bases, with laminated trusses and steel roofs. Kent Knee hoisted the trusses into place with a lift truck. The concession stand built on the plan of a 1500 square foot house, is split-faced block, with steel roofing and fascia. There are full service restrooms for men and women, and a large garage and utility room for storage. Joe Cromwell plumbed the building and installed 1700 feet of sewer line to the connection in Holiday Hills. Gary Waterstradt, Jeff McMorris, Scott Huckstadt, Scott Drews, Tom Halloran, Mark Goodwin, Kent and Mark Janesky and a host of others (some we didn't even know from out of state!) built the trusses and the roof. The maintenance building is from Morton Buildings, built by them in the fall of 2001. Paul Offutt did the site work and donated the concrete floor.

The complex and surrounding parks have space for about 900 cars. Parking lots have gravel bought by the city and trucked by Paul Offutt and volunteer teamsters from the quarry in Fairmount. Mike Offutt graded and rolled the lots. Later, Doug Ahrens and the city paved the Winter Park lots and the drive to the concession area, as the Playground for Everyone was finished in 2001.

Goals for the complex were funded by Vermilion Healthcare Foundation, provided by Kwik Goal, and trucked by Lebanon Seaboard. There are 8 sets of full size 24' by 8' goals, 3 sets of 21' by 7' goals, and 2 sets of 12' by 6' goals. The goal sizes allow us to have 8 full size fields going at once, such as in a tournament, or to have our typical recreational league setup for up to 13 games at once. There are nets and corner flags for all fields and goals.

The complex opened with formal dedication ceremonies on September 12, 1998. A parachute jumper, Crazy Larry Gray, brought the flag and the ceremonial "first ball". There were speeches, the DHS marching band, soccer games (including adult v kids). Dignitaries including Senator Judy Myers, Representative Bill Black, Mayor Bob Jones all made remarks. An American Legion Honor guard raised the first American flag after the Star Spangled Banner.

The complex is a fully irrigated 8-field sports facility with pavilions, 2 lighted fields, concessions and restrooms, utility shed, and paved parking lots for 800 cars. Work goes on with field maintenance and finishing touches.

The project was funded entirely by donations and grants generated in the local community from families, friends, businesses, corporations and local foundations, and from US Soccer, with a helping hand from the State. Almost all of the work of construction and maintenance was and is done by local contractors and labor union volunteers.

The memorial wall at the complex displays the names of people, companies, and organizations that were key in the financing and early work of the facility. Adams Memorials, with the design help of Joyce DeBoer, made the tablets in the wall.

The flagpole and flag came from a generous donation from the Danville Daughters of the American Revolution. From time to time they provide a new flag when the old one weathers.

The scale of the complex is surprising. Over 90 thousand yards of earth were moved to terrace the fields. There are about 18 acres of fields, comprising about 750,000 square feet. It took 2000 bales of wheat straw to mulch the grass seed over the 16 acres of the complex. The irrigation system has 3500 feet of main line pipe, and about a half mile of pipe in each field. There are 232 sprinkler heads in the fields, and 32 control valves. 8 miles of underground wire control the valves. It takes 500,000 gallons of water to put one inch over the entire playing surface. There are 26 aluminum soccer goals, 60 corner flags, and about 8600 feet of sideline on the soccer fields. The entire enterprise, with a budget of about a million dollars, was done without incurring any debt whatsoever.

The complex is now home to Danville Soccer Association, which provides recreational soccer opportunity for 1500 kids aged 4-14 from all communities of Vermilion County (and a few from Iroquois and Edgar). Each soccer weekend there are more than 60 games at the complex in DSA alone. Travel teams of the Central Illinois Youth Soccer league play matches there several weekends per year, and Danville High School Men and Women, First Baptist Men and Women, Schlarman Men practice and play there. Danville Area Community College men play and practice at the complex, too. The annual Clash at the Border Competitive Tournament hosts about 77 teams from 5 surrounding states.

The Danville Area Soccer Complex is a focal point for youth soccer in the entire area. Residents from throughout the county meet weekly during soccer season, with teams competing with teams from Hoopeston to Chrisman, and everywhere in between.

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