In support: A land swap could build Pensacola the soccer facility it deserves

 Three soccer fields crammed onto a single football field at Roger Scott Athletic Complex during a recent season.

Three soccer fields crammed onto a single football field at Roger Scott Athletic Complex during a recent season.

Each weekend, in the spring and the fall, more than 800 children take part in the Northeast Pensacola Optimist Soccer League — or as it's commonly known, city soccer.

That is nearly twice as many children as who play Bill Bond Baseball. And it is some four times as many as play youth football in Pensacola, according to the league director.

City soccer has long outgrown any of our local facilities. It has been forced to share fields with baseball and football at the Roger Scott Athletic Complex, adjusting for each as the seasonal play dictates. In the spring, as many as six teams may be forced to share a single field for practice. Teams have been forced to practice without goals. Players, coaches and referees have been forced to deal with rules changes from one season to another, as the size of the field shrinks or grows. And that is to say nothing of the condition of the fields themselves, which simply cannot support so many people on them six days a week, to the point that safety is a factor.

Too many teams on too few fields leads to poor — and dangerous — conditions.

That is no way to learn a sport. It is no way to play a sport. And it is no way to grow a sport.

Our children deserve better.

The City of Pensacola has nearly a million dollars allocated for facilities. And a plan for a land swap, scheduled to be introduced to City Council next week, would free up space at Hitzman-Optimist Park on Langley Avenue. Combined with another nearby city park, this could be the start of a new era of soccer in Pensacola. The league's managers and coaches are getting organized to help facilitate this project, in the same way that Upward Intuition did for the Blake Doyle Community Park and skate park.

Proper facilities breed better athletes. They also breed better competition. Both of those things will help our children grow and mature. They also will help continue to grow Pensacola.

I support all of our area's children. I call on the next City Council to do the same and support this proposal.