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$8.6 million renovation could be coming to Schneider Soccer Complex

South Toledo’s Schneider Soccer Complex could soon be renovated into state-of-the-art facilities that soccer club leaders hope will expand access to the sport in Toledo and attract regional tournaments to the city.

Toledo City Council on Wednesday will consider two pieces of legislation that, if approved, would get the ball rolling. The first is an endorsement of the city’s partnership with the Toledo Football Academy and the Toledo Celtics Soccer Club so they can apply for grants to help redevelop the complex.

The second is a 15-year lease agreement with the two soccer clubs, with three optional five-year renewal periods, for use of the city park. The lease agreement calls for annual rent of $4,000 until 2031, when it would increase to $8,000.

Council will meet Wednesday at 4 p.m. instead of Tuesday because of the primary election.

Sally Gladwell, principal and senior vice president with Mannik & Smith Group, which has been working with the soccer clubs on the redevelopment plan, outlined the project’s scope during a council committee meeting last week. She said the park along Schneider Road west of Detroit Avenue is the only publicly owned space for soccer in Toledo, and it only has four fields.

“When you compare four soccer fields to other resources the city of Toledo has — six basketball facilities, 10 softball and baseball facilities, 15 tennis facilities with 44 courts — we need to provide better access to the world’s favorite sport to Toledo youth.”

She said Toledo’s kids shouldn’t have to look to the suburbs when they want to learn soccer or compete in the team sport.

Yousef Aliakbar, director of youth for the Toledo Celtics Soccer Club, said it’s clear soccer is popular in Toledo given the turnout at this summer’s free four-day camp in partnership with the city. He said there were more than 150 kids registered from every Toledo ZIP code area.

Ms. Gladwell said the Toledo Design Collective helped draw up options for how to lay out the park’s future amenities.

Though nothing is set in stone, the soccer clubs would like to have three turf fields, five grass fields of multiple sizes, two lighted mini-pitches, an accessible playground, shelters, concessions stands, and viewing space for college scouts. She said they envision a space that is inclusive for all ages and abilities and allows for a combination of public and club use.

It also will be environmentally sustainable, she said, with native plants, solar panels, and a bio-retention system that would be able to treat 1.3 million gallons of storm water each year.

Part of the project’s scope is to demolish a former Ohio Department of Transportation maintenance complex that abuts the site to the east along Detroit Avenue, now owned by the city, and use that space as well.

“Schneider Park is a great location for larger events, like future city camps and future soccer camps, but also events such as tournaments,” Mr. Aliakbar said.

His club is hosting a tournament with 20 teams in October, but if the group’s vision becomes reality, he believes it could host tournaments of up to 150 teams from as far away as Chicago, Pittsburgh, or Louisville.

“With this revitalization of Schneider, I feel that we can impact more athletes and families, and introduce this game to individuals who have never before experienced this sport,” said Paul Holdgate, founder and managing director of Toledo Football Academy. “It would be nice to have a home-base for this program as well.”

The renovations as currently envisioned will cost about $8.6 million. Ms. Gladwell said there are portions of the project that already have funding commitments and others that are awaiting grant approval, to the tune of about $1.7 million.

That leaves just under $7 million that still needs to come from somewhere, and the group has asked city council to consider allocating part of its $180.9 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money to the project.

Council members Vanice Williams and Tiffany Preston Whitman called the project “amazing,” but said they don’t want to commit any of the federal funds just yet because they aren’t done collecting community feedback on how residents want to see the money spent.

“Even though soccer has been brought up in public meetings, we really want to make sure that we’re incorporating our community feedback before we make any decisions,” Ms. Preston Whitman said.

Paul Rasmusson, the city’s director of public service, said the partners are going to continue to seek additional funding sources to offset the city’s potential investment.

Councilman Cecelia Adams said she supports the effort.

“We cannot keep tap dancing around opportunities to make the city modern and a place where amenities are such that they’re competitive with other cities,” she said. “This is on that track, I believe.”


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on February 15, 2021.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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