Big honor for Wilson soccer groups

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While the J. Burt Gillette Athletic Complex has been a jewel among soccer fields in the state literally since it opened in 2005, its enduring popularity owes much to the people who maintain it and put on numerous soccer events each year.

That effort was recognized by the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association last week when, at its annual awards luncheon in Greensboro, it presented its 2017 Service Award jointly to Wilson Parks and Recreation Department and Wilson Youth Soccer Association.

“These awards are always great because when you don’t know that you’ve been nominated for something it means even more,” said Richard Frazier, who is a central figure for both Wilson institutions as the Parks and Rec recreation superintendent and WYSA executive director. “We’re really excited about receiving this award. It was very appreciated to get the recognition for the events that we do here.”

Gillette has been home to the US Youth Soccer’s prestigious National League season-opening weekend for girls and boys for 10 years in addition to hosting numerous high school and youth soccer events as well as the home for all Wilson Parks and Rec teams.

The complex, which now features eight fields, first gained national exposure in 2008 when it co-hosted the US Youth Soccer Region III championships with WRAL Soccer Complex in Raleigh. NC Youth Soccer official Jeff Thomas mentioned that was his first chance to not only see Gillette but also see the hard work Wilson Parks and Rec and the WYSA put in to make it a success.

Frazier said that’s been a recurring theme for officials and teams who have played at Gillette for the past 12 years.

“They always want to come back because of the quality of service and attention to detail that we always give,” he said.

Frazier said that Gillette will undergo renovations this summer as the grass surfaces on Field Nos. 2 and 3 will be converted to synthetic turf while a pavilion with a plaza will be constructed between those fields.

“We’ll have a mini-complex within a complex,” he said.

In addition, the drainage and irrigation for the other four original fields (Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 6) will be updated.

“We hope that will not only entice more players to come play for WYSA but attract more events for the city of Wilson,” Frazier said.

He indicated that Wilson will continue to bid for the rights to host the National League season openers but also plans to try to bring the US Youth Soccer President’s Cup national championship tournament in 2020 to Gillette.

Frazier indicated a successful bid for the 2020 President’s Cup championships, which are the second-highest US Youth Soccer championships, could lead to a bid for its national championships.

He praised the commitment from the Wilson City Council and Wilson Visitors Center in helping attract and stage such tournaments.

“Everybody’s come together and made Gillette the complex that it is,” Frazier said.

paul@wilsontimes.com | 265-7808