Complex Is Built, But Kids Can't Play

Competition is intense among the hundreds of kids who play with the South Mississippi Soccer Club. Parents seem happy about the club, but not the condition of the fields at the Harrison County fairgrounds.

"It's very lumpy out here," said Penny Bise, a Gulfport mom. "The horses are out here when we're not playing soccer."

"They're not level.  They've got holes in them, ant beds.  They're just not up to par like the fields on Canal Road," said Cliff Butts, a Gulfport dad.

Those new fields at the Gulfport soccer complex were used this weekend for a regional high school soccer tournament. Even the untrained eye can easily recognize that those fields are much higher quality. And they should be; the first phase of this project cost $3.2 million.

"Our kids and our parents have put the effort forth to get those fields built and we'd like to get the opportunity to use them," said Rob Hardman, a Gulfport dad.

The city says Gulfport kids will get their chance when the complex is finished. Construction was still going on this week.

The leisure services director says the project took longer than expected because of damage from Hurricane Georges.

"We hope to have the soccer complex completed, the first phase of it, in about two weeks, say mid-January, really and at that time, the South Mississippi Soccer Club recreational league will be playing games here on these fields," Gulfport Leisure Services Director George DeCoux said.

DeCoux says regional soccer tournaments will be brought in to use the fields on weekends. The city needs the funds from those tournaments to pay for maintenance at the complex. But the city says Gulfport kids will still have a chance to use the world class facility.

"Monday through Thursday, the leagues will be playing here," DeCoux said.  "As I said, in addition to that, there will be dates set aside on weekends where they can actually book tournaments in here and actually make money for their leagues."

Gulfport parents say they understand they won't have exclusive access to the soccer complex, but they do expect a little more playing time than they're getting now.