Turf fields, new lights, pavilion for soccer complex

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Three days worth of rain and drizzle didn’t mean a canceled practice for area soccer players Thursday night. They were able to practice on the new turf fields at Gillette Athletic Complex.

The girls and boys had an audience, too. Before practice started, the city celebrated the new fields with a small ceremony attended by recreation and Wilson Youth Soccer Association players, city council members, city officials, recreation commission members, Wilson Tourism Authority members and parks and rec staff. Then, instead of cutting a ribbon, several local officials kicked soccer balls into a new net to mark the occasion.

David Lee, the city’s parks and recreation director, said the updates to the soccer fields include improved accessibility with a series of walking paths, improved drainage to all six original fields, improved irrigation, two new artificial turf fields, a pavilion area with a big blue shade structure, new lights and sponsorship banners.

The soccer fields get plenty of use from recreation and WYSA travel team play, but there are many more games played there as well. There are seven large soccer events each year at the complex, Lee said, with close to 500 teams, 8,000 players and 15,000 spectators.

In the next five weekends alone, there will be four soccer tournaments.

The soccer field project was funded by the new Wilson hotel tax, Lee said.

“This was a great day for Wilson soccer, our department and the Wilson community,” Lee said on Thursday. “The commitment to our residents and top-flight national soccer tournaments by our city council and tourism authority is amazing.

“It shows vision as well as a tremendous amount of trust in our department. Our goal each and every day is to bring top-notch parks and recreation opportunities to the Wilson community as well as athletic events that increase visitors to our great city. These renovations accomplish both of those goals. We can’t wait to put them to use.”

Minnie Horton of the tourism authority said Gillette has made a huge economic impact on Wilson. “And with the improvements and support of the community it will continue to grow,” she said.

“The quality of the facility brings the teams to our city, the staff and community keep them coming back.”