Renovated Ford Park fields open for play
Major events at Ford Park
June 19-21: King of the Mountain Volleyball
June 27 to July 5: Vail Lacrosse Shootout
July 24-26: Vail Invitational Soccer Tournament
July 31 to Aug. 2: Kick It 3v3 Soccer Tournament
Aug. 7-9: Colorado Storm Summit Showcase Tournament
Oct. 3-4: VVVSC Soccer Cup
VAIL — Sporting events mean big money in Vail, and the town expects that they will be an even greater economic boon this summer thanks to the new Ford Park athletic fields, which opened for play during the weekend.
The first day of competition on the renovated fields was Saturday, when the Vail Recreation District’s U8 and U10 soccer leagues broke in the turf.
The Ford Park improvements expanded the playing areas to allow for two full-size athletic fields, instead of the one that was there before. The fields also got new artificial turf, which the town hopes will save on water bills, eliminate the need for grass care and allow the town to host more events in the spring or early fall, when the grass might otherwise be wet or muddy. In an earlier part of the project, the fields also got new concession stands and bathrooms.
KEEPING VISITORS IN TOWN
Vail has high hopes for the new fields, expecting that the expanded playing areas will especially impact major tournaments such as the 17-day Vail Lacrosse Shootout and several soccer tournaments. With more playing and less players and spectators leaving Vail to play at other venues around the valley, the town estimated the fields will keep 20,000 more people in town during the tournaments and result in an additional $900,000 in retail spending.
Last year, the fields were under construction, but in 2013, several of the biggest tournaments that were held on the fields generated an additional $168,493 in tax revenue for the town. With the fields slated for use nearly every day of the summer season through October, town officials think 2015 will bring in even more.
“We expect 2015 to be a banner year on the new fields,” said Sybill Navas, Vail’s special events coordinator.
Lacrosse, soccer and more
Tournament directors, many of whom had input on the new fields, have equally high hopes for the new Ford Park. The Vail Lacrosse Shootout, set to bring about 2,400 players of all ages along with their coaches, families and friends, will return for the 43rd year from June 27 to July 5.
“With the new configuration, we’ll be able to play more games than ever before in Vail — probably twice as much,” said David Soran, tournament’s director.
The games at the main fields will be streamed over the Internet for the elite and high school divisions, meaning the fields will even get some national Web exposure. Soran gave the town and recreation district staff credit for making Vail a lacrosse destination.
“We’ve had offers from other towns to move it, but we haven’t because its’ a perfect venue, and now we have even better fields. Colorado is really the capital of lacrosse on this side of the Mississippi,” he said.
Another major event that promises to be bigger than ever in 2015 is the Kick It 3v3 soccer tournament. The event has come to Vail for more than 15 years, but this year, the Vail tournament has been upgraded from a regional event to the world championship.
“We’ve made it a championship event because people just love it,” said Kick It founder Dan Cramer. “We already had people coming from Mexico and even Europe to attend.”
The event, which is July 31- Aug. 2, will bring around 400 teams and 2,700 players, along with more than 6,000 spectators. The 3v3 format uses smaller fields, so Cramer estimates that he’ll be able to fit 15 to 20 fields at Ford Park.
“We like being in the middle of town, where all our participants have access to fields,” he said. “They can stay in Vail and walk to the fields or take the bus. With the new turf, the playing area will be even better. You can’t find a better playing facility as far as the view and the fields.”
The tournament’s biggest demographic is 6 to 12 year olds, who usually come with their entire families. Cramer said many families treat the tournament as a “sportcation.”
“It’s a combination of a competitive sporting event and vacation,” he said.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.