Toyota kicks in funds for indoor soccer complex

A local manufacturer is kicking in enough money to pay for an indoor soccer complex in Columbus.

Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, celebrating a milestone in the city, will foot most of the bill to create a $750,000 to $1 million indoor complex on the Columbus Municipal AirPark campus.

Toyota provided the community gift to mark its 25th anniversary in Columbus, said Chip Orben, Columbus Express Soccer Club president. The exact amount of the contribution has not been made public.

The donation also is expected to help the club secure additional funding from other corporate and private donors, the club president said. Last month, Orben told the aviation board that no tax dollars would be involved in the project.

The 20,000-square-foot Toyota Industrial Equipment Soccer Pavilion along Vickers Drive may be completed by November 2016, Orben said.

Brett Wood, chairman of Toyota Material Handling USA Inc., said team sports teach strong work ethic, dependability, leadership, sportsmanship, perseverance and social skills.

“When you work hard at something and succeed, it builds a lot of confidence,” Wood said during the company’s anniversary celebration Thursday. “This translates to all aspects of life.”

Tony Miller, senior vice president for Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, said he has two daughters enrolled in Columbus Express leagues.

“They’ve grown so much through the guidance of their coaches,” Miller said. “It has really expanded their abilities outside of the soccer field.”

“When most people have a birthday, they get presents. They don’t give them,” said Gov. Mike Pence, a Columbus native, who attended the Toyota announcement at the company’s local headquarters.

Pence said it’s common for Japanese companies located in Indiana to contribute not only to the economy but also to the quality of life in a community.

“Having Toyota make one more contribution to our families and our kids is just wonderful,” the governor said.

The soccer club currently plays at the Richard Wigh Soccer Complex, an outdoor facility at 1647 Whitney Court, near the proposed location of the indoor complex.

However, the club has been working with the city’s Aviation Board for the past five months to secure the perfect location, Orben said.

“The facility will be especially important in the winter, where it will provide special training and soccer camps,” said Kendrick Ramirez, Columbus Express director of coaching. “Of course, during any inclement weather, we can still carry on the development of young kids.”

Player safety would be increased by having the facility because it could serve as a shelter from storms, Orben said.

“Right now I have to tell people to take shelter in their cars,” he said.

As part of its 25th anniversary event, Toyota distributed 1,500 soccer balls to people attending the event.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.