This is the first of a two part series on Project Pele and the progress of the six soccer fields.
If you build it they will come.
That’s the slogan the City of Boonville is hoping for after building six soccer fields near Boonville High School.
The 7.6 million project, also known as Project Pele, is nearing completion with five of the six fields already completed.
In a one on one interview with Boonville Assistant to the City Administrator Kate Fjell, Fjell talks about the construction of the soccer fields from the ground up.
Q: Can you tell me the progress of the soccer fields?
A: All of the turf is done and all of the lights are done. The city crews are coming back on to the site and they are doing all of the sidewalks, fencing and the ball stop netting and those sort of issues. We have a contractor helping us on the sidewalks so that has been really nice because he comes in and does 500 feet at a time, which is really awesome. We also goals, benches and garbage cans so we will be ready to put some action on the fields starting this fall, which has always been our goal. However it will still be a work in progress. We’ve also just recently started putting the seed and straw down so that’s been really good. There are two big things that are left to be done. One is starting August 1, where a contractor will come in and finish the championship field. They will be on site and install underdrain on the field, which will help the water drain away and then they are doing a sand cap. The other big thing which will be a city project is we are putting a storage shed out on the property that the city bought from the Hodge’s property. We are doing to put a shed there that is going to serve as both a storage sheet but also we will have some office space. It will be a referee rest bed place for tournaments and a couple of bathrooms and a tournament organizer headquarters.
Q: Is there a timeline that you want these soccer fields to be finished?
A: I think hopefully we will be completed by the end of this year, but it’s a little bit weather dependent. We are making really good headway on what our crews are doing right now. It’s going much faster than I thought and so I feel more confident about that all the time and like I said we are actually already putting things out there for the fall. The BSA (Boonville Soccer Academy) M3 League is going to be out there and there are going to be a few outside events on there. We will have some use on it and I am hopeful by this spring of next year, sort of that next soccer season, we will be fully operational and all of the stuff will be ready.
Q: Are the sprinkling systems ready to go on the championship field?
A: Yes. They were there yesterday and had a couple of issues but I am confident that we will have water on both of those fields by the end of this week.
Q: This project started at $5 million during the preliminary stages but is now at $7.5 million. Do you anticipate this project going higher?
A: I think it’s probably close to $7 million. Again it’s credit to our city construction doing so much work. It’s been a really cost savings for us and then also the school has been such a great partner because we didn’t have to put a parking lot down, we didn’t have to do bathrooms and concession stands since a lot of the infrastructure are already there and that has been really helpful.
Q: Has there been any problems that you didn’t anticipate along the way?
A: I think the only real challenge along the way has been with the dirt work. We’ve had the contractors come back to redo some stuff just because people run over stuff and it was all degrade so we have ended up having to refix some of that stuff. The other big challenge has been the irrigation system. It’s been giving us a little bit of a hard time but I think we are over that hill so again the school has been so patient because we told them they would have their practice field back this year and I don’t think it’s going to be quite back but we’ve talked about it. I think the next challenge is really going to be the operation and maintenance.
Q: Has it been determined who is going to maintain the fields?
A: Where we are right now is again the city and the school are still at the table but we have also brought in Boonville Soccer Academy to help us primarily because they are in the soccer world and they are already in the know. They are a good partner in terms of helping us manage what is expected because it’s been a long time since I played soccer. We haven’t hired anyone but there is likely someone to do some of the sweeping and we have talked to some people but again it’s just like one of those things, we are not sure how many people you need. Of course you are going to need people when you have a tournament to collect trash and that kind of stuff but you don’t need them all the time so we are just trying to figure out what that looks like. We decided for the 12-18 months we are doing to do it together with BSA because we want them to be successful and we want to be successful obviously.
Q: I heard you have a tournament scheduled in August where 40-50 teams are going to come to Boonville?
A: We were trying to get together a tournament and it was really what I call a low key tournament or recreational so not a competitive tournament. All the people were local and the teams were mainly local so we knew that they would be forgiving. There are a couple of things, though. One, I don’t think we are going to be quite ready so as much as we are making progress we are panicking and then also this is actually the off-season for soccer. We are having a hard time getting some people in and willing so we have just kind of shelved that for now because we decided we would rather have more of a complete product and put a good foot forward. We are going to continue on but like I said BSA is running their micro league here at the facility and there will be several Midwest Regional League (MRL) games that we will host. They are not all scheduled yet but those will be held here for three days with teams from Illinois and Kansas. That will be in the fall and spring and they will usually primarily two fields. And then there is something called the Olympic Development Program, where for instance in Missouri Youth Soccer they take what is called the best of the best kids and they play. They are actually going to host tryouts here for the Olympic Development Program, and then there may be some sort of games there too. That’s been a really good partnership that we have with the Missouri Youth Soccer Association, where they help us out in terms of getting in the market and for them it’s been a really good thing because before they were sort of stuck to St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield. They also had kids playing all over and they had kids criss-crossing the state so for Missouri soccer they are very excited to have something in the middle and a place to play.
Q: Who is going to be in charge of scheduling tournaments?
A: Again everything is kind of a team atmosphere here right now. We have partnered with Missouri Youth Soccer and they have developed a website and a calendar. Basically what will happen, a reservation request will be made most likely though the internet and it will be funneled through Jimi Barbarotta, myself and Chris Shikles because obviously we have to be aware of their schedule and we will see that. Then we will be able to make a decision as to whether its a go or whatever, and then they will sign the agreement, pay the reservation cost and then it will happen that way.
Q: You said they will start putting sod on the championship field next week. How long will that take?
A: They will mobilize late next week. The first thing that will be done is that they will come in and put a underdrain in and a sand cap. After that, they will lay the sod, which is going to be a Bermuda bluegrass hybrid. Hopefully they will have that done in 4-6 weeks. We don’t actually anticipate playing this fall on the field but we wanted to get it in while the weather is right. And then we purchased this turf blanket for the field so it will help incubate it a little bit so when you pull it off it will look a lot greener and more ready to play right away.