I would imagine when the Indiana Cup soccer folks came around four years ago to examine the Wigh Soccer Complex and adjacent Parkside fields, those in our local soccer community had to be a little shocked.
Although the facility was first-rate, as were the people associated with it, it wasn’t quite good enough.
“They knew how we run tournaments,” said Chip Orben, president of the Columbus Express Soccer Club. “After all, this was Columbus. We do things right, first class. But the west side of the complex hadn’t been irrigated. They said we didn’t have enough full-sided (high school regulation) fields. We needed a minimum of eight.”
Although eight full-sided fields had been laid out, two weren’t the quality demanded by the Indiana Cup.
“It was a good location and a good facility, but we were two fields short,” Orben said.
That’s when our town had a decision to make. Do we do even more at a site that certainly had to be considered plenty big enough to serve our community in grand fashion?
Fortunately, we live in a community that values its parks and recreation sites and wants them to be among the best offered in a Midwest. The prevailing thought was that if the money and resources were put into irrigating the west side of the soccer complex, that the site eventually would be picked to host the Indiana Cup Finals. That would further enhance the city’s reputation as one of the best places to live in the state and Midwest.
Columbus will get that
exposure from May 31 to June 2 as it has been announced that the town will host its first Indiana Cup Finals.
“This event will draw about 120 teams with roughly 15 kids on a team,” said Jim Dietz, the Columbus director of sports tourism. “We’re probably looking at about 5,000 people.”
Indiana Cup Director Angel Hall estimated that a minimum of 350 hotel rooms would be needed for at least one night and perhaps as many as 1,100 according to the organization’s research. Of course, that will give the area’s restaurants, stores and attractions a boost as well.
Dietz said an economic study was completed to study if irrigating the west side of the soccer complex made sense. It did. The following three-year project has produced a complex capable of offering 14 full-sided fields.
It was a collaborative effort by Parks & Rec, the Columbus Express, the local high schools, and the Visitors Center.
“Our Parks & Rec Department does an amazing job,” Dietz said.
The complex has been so impressive that the site also was in the running to host the National High School Rugby Invitational that same weekend. Now that the Indiana Cup has made its commitment, Columbus has withdrawn from consideration for the rugby event, although it hopes to be in the mix in the future.
“That whole area (the west side) was leveled out and reseeded,” Orben said. “The Indiana Cup people came down a month ago. They said that now we have the total package.
“This is going to open up the door for us in terms of additional opportunities.”
Orben, 50, has been associated with the Express for 10 years, but he grew up in Columbus playing soccer.
“Quite frankly, soccer originated here because of some folks from Cummins who were from Scotland and England and who grew the sport here,” Orben said. “It’s gone from its infantile stages to the competitive soccer leagues we have now. Today, all our coaches are certified, and we have a director of coaching.”
Besides the Indiana Cup Finals, the facility also will host a preliminary tournament a couple of weeks earlier that should draw 60 to 70 teams trying to qualify for the Finals.
The Finals will match teams in the Under-13 through Under-19 divisions in boys and girls events.
Orben now will assemble committees to give the soccer players and their families a great experience. Those who would like to help can contact him at Chip.Orben@duke-energy.com.