New $1.1M turf fields in Edwards ready just in time for huge youth soccer tournament | VailDaily.com

New $1.1M turf fields in Edwards ready just in time for huge youth soccer tournament

The county commissioners and WECMRD executives celebrated the new turn fields in Freedom Park. The fields opened in time for this weekend's Vail Valley Cup, a youth soccer team that will bring 148 youth soccer teams to town. From left are: Ron Seibert, Eagle County facilities; Kathy Chandler-Henry, Eagle County commissioner ; Jeanne McQueeney, Eagle County commissioner; Liz Jones, WECMRD board member; Mike Staten, WECMRD Edwards area manager; Chris Pryor, WECMRD board member; Bobby Ladd, WECMRD board member.

EDWARDS — It's not exactly true that 148 youth soccer teams were ready to storm the Freedom Park field during the ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate a new turf surface.

But it was close.

Eagle County and Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District spent $1.1 million this summer to install a new artificial turf soccer/lacrosse field and two turf baseball infields.

You have slept on motel beds that are not as soft as those new Freedom Park fields.

Hellas Construction from Austin, Texas, wrapped up the project last week. The county commissioners and WECMRD executives cut the ribbon Thursday, Oct. 5, a day before the Vail Valley Soccer Club's fall tournament opened — 148 teams, up from 130 teams last year.

The fields are an investment in health, the health of local children and families, said Janet Bartnik, the new WECMRD executive director, who has held the job six weeks.

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"The more we can keep them active, the better their overall mental, physical and emotional health will be," Bartnik said.

Mike Staten runs WECMRD's Edwards complex: the Freedom Park fields and fieldhouse.

"It's a collaborative community investment in the health of our kids," Staten said. "The impact WECMRD has had on health is massive. You cannot put a dollar amount on it."

Let's try anyway.

Green fields equal greenbacks

Between the Vail Valley Soccer Club Vail Valley Cup's economic impact and other events, the county and recreation district will make up the $1.1 million spent on these fields, possibly before leaf-peeping season ends. Here's why.

This weekend's Vail Valley Cup will bring to town:

• 148 teams playing on 17 fields

• 2,700 athletes

• 2.5 people per contestant

• 150 coaches

• 125 referees

• 3,000 room nights from East Vail to Eagle

"We are incredibly proud of how large we have grown this tournament over the years," said Kerri Thelan, executive director of the Vail Valley Soccer Club. "This is now the most sought-after soccer event this weekend in Colorado. It is with the support of our towns, sponsors and community partners that we have become so successful."

Historically, hotel occupancy for the Vail Valley Cup weekend is around 80 percent, explained Chris Romer, CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership. Average hotel rates in October in Vail are $175.

Each one of this Vail Valley Cup's 148 teams will bring an average of 22 players. Children in the 10 to 14 age bracket are accompanied by 2.5 people — parents, siblings, others. That entourage spends an average of $40 per person, per day, Staten calculated.

In Edwards, those tournaments pump $2.5 million into the midvalley economy. It spreads out from there across the rest of the valley, Staten said.

"Having fields like that is what makes people want to come here," Staten said, pointing to the new turf fields. "This is our premier complex that is the center of it all."

And Eagle County's location is pretty good, Staten said.

"We're right in the middle of what I'd like to argue is the most amazing county in the United States," he said. "People want to come here. They're looking for a reason to come here. In the winter months, it has always been the ski mountains. In the warmer months, we're developing an identity that will help our business in the offseason."

The Vail Valley Lacrosse Club brings 80 to 100 teams to town for its spring tournament. Throw in tournaments of all types, all summer, and those green fields translate to greenbacks.

Long field life

The original artificial turf field was installed in 2003, dedicated by then-county commissioners Tom Stone, Michael Gallagher and Johnnette Phillips. Since then, it has been enjoyed by millions of players … really enjoyed … so much that it needed to be replaced. It lived a long and full life, though.

The new field was dedicated Thursday afternoon. That means the 10-year field lasted 14 years.

Eagle County picked up the tab for the soccer/lacrosse field, $678,518 out of its capital improvement fund.

WECMRD paid for the two baseball infields — $422,000 for both.

The whole thing cost $1.1 million.

Staten rattled off some of the local organizations that are regulars: Vail Valley Soccer Club, Vail Valley Lacrosse Club, Three Rivers Little League, YouthPower365.

"On top of that, we work closely with our local schools," Staten said.

And that's just locals.

"Then you throw in the economic driver for sports tourism," Staten said. "The tournament this weekend is a perfect example."

Staten waded through all the old construction invoices and leases, did a little arithmetic and came up with $18.7 million in facilities built since Freedom Park opened. The turf fields are the first major replacement projects.

Eagle County owns the land. WECMRD manages the fields and facilities.

The county and WECMRD have been working toward the turf replacement projects for about four years, said Liz Jones, WECMRD board president.

The new field is great for … well … everyone. It has a shock pad in place that reduces impact when players fall, or when they run and jump, which players tend to do. Permanent lines are built in for soccer and lacrosse.

"I am convinced that this is the most-used 35 acres in Eagle County, other than maybe the ski resort," Staten said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.