The Mobile City Council voted unanimously to move forward with plans to develop a soccer-specific field at Herndon (Sage) Park to the cheers of many soccer fans in the crowd at a late Tuesday meeting on the road.
The council made the decision after receiving comments from a coach and a self-described soccer mom at a public hearing beginning at 6 p.m. at B.C. Rain High School.
Chad Harrelson, a coach of a U12 team for Mobile United soccer club, said he was there representing more than 600 players as part of the club, as well as the thousands of youth soccer players throughout the area. Mobile United players joined Harrelson at the meeting.
“These kids are here because they are excited,” he said. “We are excited about what we’re hearing.”
There is currently no field in the city specifically designated for soccer, he said. The only large field at Sage Park is multipurpose and can be used for soccer or football. He told councilors that of the 14 fields on which Mobile United teams practice, only three are city-owned. Harrelson went on to praise the council for supporting a proposed county soccer complex.
Sheila Lynch said she spends as much as $500 on weekend trips to area soccer tournaments, adding that it’s money the city isn’t currently getting.
A letter from Architectural Department Assistant Director Kim Harden to council staff described the project. In the letter Harden said there was not enough undeveloped land at Sage Park and the field would have to be developed by removing one of four baseball fields at the park.
Councilman Fred Richardson supported the park – noting it is in the district he represents – and said the improvements would hopefully make soccer more available to children in his district.
Councilman John Williams said “tonight is a positive night for soccer” and congratulated Harrelson on the accomplishment.
“This is a council that is unified and knows that soccer is necessary in Mobile,” Williams said.
Rich said she was happy to see the enhancement to Sage Park through a joint effort between the city and county and added that she was excited for a joint effort for the proposed county complex.
The council also received county funding, through Commissioner Merceria Ludgood, to authorize the development of a splash pad, or “sprayground” at James M. Seals Jr. Park.
In other business, the council approved giving the council and planning commission until the end of March next year to consider proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance for construction, or development of above-ground oil storage tanks.