Soccer association, civic center seek to resolve fields dispute
“Don’t Kick Soccer Out.” That’s what the button states that supporters of the Mineola Youth Soccer Association are wearing.
Parents of soccer players and community members first became aware of a serious situation with using the Mineola Civic Center for soccer when the fall 2019 soccer season sign-ups were delayed by several weeks due to the Civic Center board delaying approval of the fields for soccer use.
Most supporters feel that the Civic Center fields are an ideal location but realize that it’s not an ideal situation. They need a permanent place for the soccer association and don’t understand why the Civic Center fields can’t fit that need.
The soccer association does not use the Civic Center fields for free. They pay $200 monthly to the Civic Center during the soccer season for mowing and trimming of the area they use. They say they also do their best to abide by all guidelines, but realize that with 170-plus kids, sometimes trash is left behind.
They believe the use of the civic center is not looking good for spring 2020 soccer season, either. The soccer association has been told they need to be securing another place, but say they can’t build fields overnight. Spring 2020 sign-ups begin in January, practice starts in February, and games start in March.
While the soccer association is thankful for the city’s offer to use the Mineola Nature Preserve, they don’t feel that it’s a good option. Too much dirt work and leveling would have to be done, and they simply do not have the funds to make it happen in a short amount of time.
It was recommended to the soccer association to get emails sent to the Civic Center board in support of soccer staying there. In addition to the emails, another supporter suggested a petition. From the inception of the petition on Oct. 17, over 300 signatures have been obtained.
The petition states, “We, the undersigned, are asking the Mineola Civic Center Board to allow continued use of their Facilities for the Mineola Soccer Association. The Civic Center is a beautiful park centrally located in Mineola and to nearby towns for the community to enjoy.
“The park is designed for our local children to enjoy tennis courts, playground and a splash pad, as well as other family activities. Playing soccer at the Civic Center is an added asset that children and spectators in the community have come to enjoy for many years. We are asking that the children will be able to continue to play soccer at the Civic Center without interruption.
“The Mineola Soccer Association has always asked our players and spectators to respect the Civic Center grounds and to do their part in clean up after our activities.
“Parents on several occasions have taken time out of their day, even on Sundays, to help make sure the facility grounds are clean around the soccer fields, and that nearby areas are picked up as well. Thank you for your time and thank you for supporting our children.”
The soccer association hopes the petition will show the Civic Center board that they have community support and will encourage them to let them stay longer while looking for other options.
Another local supporter made the buttons that were passed out to a few people to wear in support of the soccer association staying at the Civic Center. According to a parent who is also on the soccer association board, the buttons were not bought, nor intended, for the purpose of starting a “movement.”
As a parents states, it was not started with the intention to make anyone look bad, and they’re very thankful for the city’s and the Civic Center’s support thus far. They just want a place for the kids to play without having a lapse in seasons.
A soccer association board member feels that being forced from the Civic Center fields will affect the structure of the entire association, as teams come from Quitman, Alba, Grand Saline, Van and Canton to play in Mineola. Soccer is an activity that keeps the youth out of trouble. Without a place to play, they feel the kids are being let down.
Nancy Murphy, manager of the Mineola Civic Center, says the Civic Center housing the soccer association was only intended to be a temporary solution since they first came to the Civic Center in 2011.
Before that time, the soccer teams had been playing at the industrial park behind Tractor Supply. When they could no longer play there, the Civic Center board was approached and asked if they could use the open spaces while securing another field.
At that time, the board took a vote allowing them use of the Civic Center grounds, and a contract was written for surface use only.
Afterward, emails were sent to the board asking permission to cement the soccer goals and to leave them up year-round. The answer was no.
In 2016, Tammy Smith, the current Soccer Association president, negotiated a contract with the Mineola Civic Center via Murphy. The contract covered the 2016 fall season and 2017 spring season.
The agreement is reviewed annually, and a new contract has been signed with no changes made since.
The Mineola Civic Center Corporation is a non-profit organization with 501(c)3 status. They exist on donations, such as the ones from the Meredith Foundation, and from funds generated through events and rentals. RV rental spaces bring income to the center and to the town.
Murphy says that she hates making the soccer association miss games when other things are going on at the Civic Center grounds such as the circus, the carnival and RV rallies. However, the Civic Center use is for the entire community, not just the soccer association.
As the manager, Murphy does not make any decision. She says she simply enforces the decisions made by the board. The board does not feel that guidelines set forth since the beginning, such as picking up and removing their trash, have been followed.
The trash being left behind costs the Civic Center maintenance crew time and effort when having to clean up after games and before they can mow. The personal property of RV owners has also been messed with by the kids, causing a hardship for the RV renters.
According to Murphy, the soccer association was told that if they could not abide by the guidelines, they would not be allowed to use the Civic Center for the spring 2020 season. The rumor that the soccer association is being pushed out to expand the RV rental sites is untrue, she said.
The Civic Center feels that they have gone out of their way to make accommodations for the soccer association, but that it is time for them to take ownership and find something that is theirs.
“We want it to be a win-win for the Civic Center and the soccer association,” says Murphy.
The Civic Center board met Tuesday to review the soccer association’s fall contract, which expires Nov. 2.
Specifically the contract calls for the association to provide a waiver of insurance liability to the center and to be registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit, neither of which has been done.
The center board plans to meet with the association board soon to see whether arrangements can be made for the spring season.
Shelby Turner, Mineola High School soccer coach, has met with the Interim Superintendent Randy Hancock to discuss the future of the Mineola Soccer Association. They are hoping to facilitate a solution and are working on a proposal to bring before the Mineola ISD school board for approval at the November regular meeting.