Blackwell Park, located on the north side of Columbus not far from the city’s municipal airport, has long been an outstanding recreational area.
It has served the students who attend Parkside Elementary School, located on the property, but also more than 1,000 children who participate in Columbus Parks and Recreation programs each year. That includes the Columbus North and East high school soccer teams that play at the Richard J. Wigh Soccer Complex, which is part of the sprawling area.
“This is definitely a soccer community,” said Mark Jones, director of the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, which maintains the Wigh Soccer Complex.
As good as Blackwell Park has been, it may get better. Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is in a position to fund, construct and oversee two new, lighted competition fields on the outer edge of Blackwell Park, north of the Wigh complex, that the North and East teams would share.
School district officials’ plans are planning for scoreboards, expanded spectator seating, a restroom/concession building, a press box, fencing and parking. Future plans address a locker room building, additional seating and other amenities.
All of what’s been proposed is with Bartholomew Consolidated staying at its current tax rates. The school board has approved borrowing $13 million in bonds, of which a portion would be used for the new soccer complex.
The upgrade has been years in the making, with a new soccer complex on a school district priority list since 2009.
Of the Wigh Soccer Complex’s three fields, only one is considered competition level. Also, the existing changing room is small, and the fields have limited seating and no handicapped accessibility.
If the project goes ahead as anticipated, the new soccer complex will raise the stature of soccer in Columbus by the start of the 2019 school year.
Other soccer stakeholders also stand to benefit, as more soccer fields could aid sports tourism efforts to bring in larger tournaments.
From the early plans, this project looks like a winner — like the programs it will boost.
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