New SoCal Sports Complex Nears Completion
Dreams of more professional quality soccer fields in the Southern California area are shared by all those involved in the beautiful game. While Cal South teams may be recognized around the country for their high level performance, the leaders of youth soccer realized a long time ago that competitive soccer needed fields to grow. Experienced coaches and inspired players were not enough to allow dreams to flourish.
Why didn’t this bastion of soccer fever have enough fields? While few could understand why, two people were determined to change this. Why should soccer families — for example — have to face long drives to Lancaster to compete in Cal South’s State and National Cup games? These journeys bring visions of competing not only against a formidable opponent but also strong winds.
Finally, there is a bright light at the end of the road for youth soccer’s clubs, coaches and families. After endless years of dedicated effort and extraordinary forward thinking, Pat Collins and Mike Connerley’s never-give-up relentless determination has prevailed and the SoCal Sports Complex is scheduled to open this year. The
It has been a long, involved process, but at last the final whistle is about to be blown on the construction of the long-awaited SoCal Sports Complex, originally known as the Soccer Field of Dreams. The SoCal Sports Complex is located south of 76 and just East of the 5 Freeway and will have 20 full size soccer fields on 54 acres, surrounded by restaurants, shops and and hotels. Two Marriott hotels (Residence Inn and Marriott Courtyard) are already ready for soccer players traveling to compete.
The new fields will used by the Oceanside Breakers — the club will have several fields for club practice and player development and the remaining lush, natural grass fields will be used for tournaments and competitions.
If all continues according to plans, this summer will see the opening of a beautiful new facility in the heart of San Diego’s North County community in of Oceanside – in the appropriately named El Corazon (The Heart) section of the city. What was once the Crystal Silica sand mine will be reborn as a series of championship-quality soccer fields that will be used for club, community and competitive tournament play. The Labor Day Blues Cup will be among the first tournament moving to the So Cal Sports Complex.
An answer to the long awaited need — The idea of a new regional multi-field facility was born in 2004 when Mike Connerley, President and Mick Dawson, Secretary of the prestigious youth soccer tournament, the San Diego Surf Cup, began to put together a group to study the possibility of developing a Soccer Field of Dreams in San Diego County. Connerley was joined by Pat Collins and others to form SoCal Sports. With the goal of giving back to the community and providing better resources for youth soccer, Collins and Connerley have been the driving force behind the project that has taken ten years.
In 2006, Collins and Connerley had discovered the El Corazon property and planning had started on an official proposal to the city of Oceanside. The site itself is part of 465 acres that Oceanside acquired in 1994, with the goal of revitalizing the heart of the community. In 1995 the Oceanside City Council set in motion work on a long range Vision Plan, leading to the 2003 creation of the El Corazon Planning Committee (ECPC). A master plan for the use of the land was accepted in 2005 and a specific plan drafted in 2007. Collins and Connerley, along with Sudberry Properties, presented their proposal for the site in March of 2011. Collins said, “Without Colton Sudberry and Charlie Abdi this project would never have happened.”
The next step in the process came on August 31, 2011, when the Oceanside City Council, on the recommendation of the El Corazon Planning Committee, unanimously approved the Sudberry Properties/Soccer Field of Dreams plan. The overall plan includes 20 fields on 54 acres, along with adjoining commercial and hotel development. The fields were deemed the most critical component of the project, and therefore the first that should be completed. Money generated through various fees from the fields will help with the second stage, which will also include hotels that will likely be filled by participating teams during the planned tournaments.
This is a project that has long been needed in Southern California. With the opening of the SoCal Sports Complex, there will be one more option for organizations such as Cal South to schedule tournaments like the State Cup and National Cup. Also, larger regional tournaments such as US Youth Soccer’s Region IV Championships can now look to the sunny coastal climate of Oceanside as a quality venue.
Collins, who is a limited partner in SoCal Sports, has been a workhorse in seeing the project to fruition. He has put much of his private life on the back burner while helping to chaperon the new soccer complex through the many twists and turns of planning and development.
“This has been our dream for many years, and the groundbreaking celebration last November 14th was amazing,” said Collins, a former USC football player who was a defensive back on the 1972 undefeated National Championship team. Collins’ first competitive soccer team’s roster included (now U.S. National Team defender) Rachel Van Hollebeke and he was the driving force behind the launch of the competitive side of the DMCV Sharks youth soccer club.
Connerley likewise has devoted many hours to the project. “This year will be the 34rd Surf Cup and I know first hand that America and San Diego in particular needs more youth soccer fields. The SoCal Sports Complex will be a great asset to the area and the sport,” said Connerley.
“Cal South is excited about the future opening of the SoCal Sports Complex in Oceanside,” states Cal South Chief Executive Officer, John Weinerth. “The SoCal Sports development team reached out to us early in the process and we look forward to this vision becoming a reality with many weekends of State and National Cup and other Cal South events to this facility.”
The planning has been done, the ground has been graded and prepared, and sod will soon be placed to create the beautiful new fields. When the first soccer ball is placed on the new pitch, Pat Collins and Mike Connerley should be the ones to celebrate with the first kicks.