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Residents argue for new soccer complex

Posted on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 at 8:00 am


Soccer is the biggest sport in the world and many people think it should be the most popular sport in Shelbyville and Bedford County as well.

At the regular February meeting of the Shelbyville City Council more than 60 people — including 42 in the lobby who could not find seats in the council chambers — were present to support a new soccer complex at H.V. Griffin Park.

By a 6-0 vote, the council authorized the application for a Local Parks and Recreation Fund Grant through the Division of Recreation Educational Services of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) for $14 million to be used for a soccer complex as well as additional baseball and softball facilities with streets, parking, drainage, and utilities.

The grant requires a 50 percent local match. The $7 million would be allocated in future budgets. The City will be asking Bedford County for a substantial share in assistance of the match payment.

Charles Rose, Chris Fitz (Shelbyville Central boys’ soccer coach), Wendy Williams (Cascade High girls’ soccer coach), Kevin Moore, Sarah Soto, and Marc Betzelberger spoke in favor of a new soccer complex.

All six speakers were persuasive, but Rose, a parent of three soccer players as well as being a soccer coach, made a well-researched presentation to open the public hearing portion of the meeting.

He pointed out that Shelbyville is ranked No. 30 in population (of 424 Tennessee cities) for 2024 with 25,330 residents. In the top 50 of population rankings, Shelbyville is one of two cities without a dedicated soccer complex. Only three of the top 64 cities in the population ranking have no dedicated soccer facilities – Hartsville and Oakland.

“Combine Hartsville’s and Oakland’s populations and Shelbyville is still larger,” Rose said. “With 53,000 residents [based on] Bedford County ranks as the 32nd most populous county in the state and 13th in terms of growth at 18.75 percent and 17th in terms of added residents with 10,038 since 2010.

“We are the only county in the state with a population greater than 50,000 residents without a soccer complex (full-sized dedicated soccer fields for year around use). We’re one of two counties in the state with double-digit growth percentage and a population greater than 40,000 without a soccer complex.”

Rose pointed out that tournaments sanctioned by the Tennessee State Soccer Association (TSSA) will generated more than $6 million in Tennessee this season. He added that within 60 miles of Shelbyville $2.1 million will be generated in tournament fees alone. Concessions, vendors, hotels, sales tax revenue and other sources of income were not included in the figures.

“We expect to be comparable to complexes in Smyrna, Columbia, White House, Oak Ridge and Cookeville where the average tournament income is $55,600 with a low of $24,000 to a high of $156,000.

“Using $55,000 as a starting point, this would equate to 100 teams and 1,100 players plus their families to spend money on hotels, restaurants and other retailers over a three-day weekend tournament. Assuming a modest expenditure of $400 per family that is $440,000 in local hotel, restaurant and vendor revenue. And this is for just one weekend.”

Rose told council members he had only scratched the surface of the revenue potential.

“Forty-nine of the top 50 cities and 69 counties in the State of Tennessee cannot be wrong,” Rose said. “It is time for us to take advantage of this opportunity with TDEC.

“As a business owner and soccer advocate, I strongly suggest that the council move forward with this plan.  We are the only city in the State of Tennessee with a Chick-Fil-A and no soccer complex. Let’s fix that.”