Soccer players

Lexington’s youth traveling teams were the first to use the Lexington Fieldhouse when it opened Saturday. The 27,000-square-foot, multipurpose, turf-surfaced recreational facility is at the Lexington Optimist Recreation Complex in northwest Lexington. The playing area can be split using a retractable mechanical curtain and a narrower public area with concrete flooring.

LEXINGTON — Indoor soccer has arrived in Lexington, fulfilling a long-held dream for many.

The Lexington Fieldhouse, an indoor sports building, opened Saturday and drew a steady stream of people from soccer players and spectators to those who wanted to catch their first glimpse of the interior of the new building.

Ann Luther, parks and community activities director for the city, said more than 1,000 people visited on Saturday, the first day of its soft opening, and there were 500 to 600 people there on Sunday.

“It looks pretty nice, but I think we need more seats for the people. It’s going to get crowded,” Yanexy Torres,18, of Lexington said. She plays on the high school soccer team and just recently joined a league.

Luther said it’s anticipated the facility will be well-used.

“We actually have something every day of the week,” Luther said. “We’re booked.”

The 27,000-square-foot multipurpose, turf-surfaced recreational facility is in northwest Lexington at the Lexington Optimist Recreation Complex.

The space is divided between a turf-surfaced playing area, that can be split in two with a retractable mechanical curtain and a narrower public area with concrete flooring. A soft net separates the playing area from fans.

There also are individual changing rooms, an office, storage, public restrooms, and concessions, which already were on site and to which the new building was added.

“I think it’s great,” City Manager Joe Pepplitsch said. “It met expectations. We’re glad to start, and we look forward to a lot more. It’s a great opportunity for people in this area. I’m excited. It’s been a good kickoff. We think it will be pretty high-use, long term.”

Community members who love soccer approached the city eight years about building something.

“It’s been a long process, from the fundraising and the construction activities. We’re happy to get the product out there to and to give more opportunities to the community,” Pepplitsch said.

“Today is a very special day for those who love soccer,” Ramon Prado of Lexington said during opening ceremonies Saturday afternoon. He introduced the 12 men’s teams and eight women’s teams that would be competing during the weekend.

Earlier in the day, youth traveling teams with players ranging from first- to eight-graders were the first to use the facility.

Prado said in 1998 he remembered seeing teens play soccer day after day outdoors at Bryan Elementary School despite the cold.

“They played every day regardless of what the thermometer said,” he said. “That is only a memory because today Lexington has an indoor facility and no one will have to play in the snow.”

Prado said the fieldhouse was a collaborative effort made possible by those who love to play soccer working with a supportive city manager and Lexington City Council and by those who contributed time or money to the project.

“Today, it is not a dream on a piece of paper. Today, it is a reality,” Prado said.

When a commemorative plaque was presented to Pepplitsch, Prado said, “He supported this idea from the very first day it was suggested to him.”

Plaques also were given to City Council member Dora Vivas, city Development Services Director Bill Brecks and Luther. Luther was also invited to make an initiation kick.

The fieldhouse will provide opportunities for all ages to participate in activities year-round in a weather-friendly environment, said Pepplitsch.

“Anything you can play on grass or do on turf, any type of sport activity, could be done in here,” he said. Those activities include, but are not limited to, archery, baseball, softball, golf instruction, flag football and marching band.

The project cost $1.4 million and was built by TL Sund in Lexington. It benefited from a $600,000 Department of Economic Development Civic and Cultural Center Financing Fund grant, a $150,000 Peter Kiewit Foundation Challenge Grant and from donations from businesses such as Tyson Fresh Meats. Many individuals have contributed; $41,605 from 47 donors was raised during the November Give Big Lexington event, and the city allowed people to contribute through their monthly utility bills.

Pepplitsch said less than $15,000 is owed on the facility from the original fundraising goals and that the city was happy to cover the shortfall until donations come in.

“We believe it will be met. We are taking longer-term donations. We expect those monies to be raised. In the meantime, we’ve covered the shortfall. We’re happy to get it opened,” he said.

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