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February 27, 2014

FIELD OF DREAMS: Jeffersonville's Woehrle Athletic Complex may host pro soccer practices

Parks officials in talks with United Soccer Leagues team owner

JEFFERSONVILLE — As rumors circulate of a professional soccer team taking root in Louisville, Jeffersonville is readying its Woehrle Athletic Complex for possible pro and semi-pro action.

Parks and Recreation Director Paul Northam said the department is in talks with several teams that are interested in Woehrle’s unique facilities.

“We’ve already had contact from a semi-pro football team, a semi-pro soccer and a professional soccer team relocating to Louisville, and they want to use this facility,” he said.

Wayne Estopinal, a Jeffersonville architect who owns a minority stake in Orlando City soccer and has been involved in talks to bring the United Soccer Leagues’ Professional Division club to Louisville, sent Northam an email a few months ago asking if Woehrle fields would be available for practices.

“Nothing is confirmed with them,” Northam said.

Estopinal was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

Chris Poynter, spokesperson for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, said he has not heard anything about using Woehrle for practices only.

“We have been in negotiations with [Estopinal] about potentially using Slugger Field as the venue on the soccer team,” he said.

The Louisville-based semi-pro Development League soccer team River City Rovers are already on Woehrle’s game schedule, as well as Jeffersonville and Sellersburg-based semi-pro football team the Indiana Bucks.

Part of what makes Woehrle so attractive to not just local youth or club teams but also semi-pro and pro teams is its artificial turf field.

“You can play pretty much any time on it,” Northam said. “If it rains, it doesn’t get muddy, it doesn’t get torn up. It is playable almost 12 months out of the year.”

The closest artificial turf fields are in Evansville, Indianapolis and Elizabethtown, Ky., he said.

“Ours being as new as it is, it’s just a beautiful state-of-the-art field,” he said.

All five soccer fields and the artificial turf field should be ready for use within the next month.

A proposal for plan changes to the interior portion of Woehrle for a lump sum not exceeding $65,000 was approved by the Parks Authority at the meeting Monday. One of these changes includes the addition of locker rooms, which helps attracts the teams.

James Lake, principal of Kovert Hawkins Architects that is tasked with interior plans, said the indoor facility coupled with the exterior make Woehrle a premium place for games and practices.

“It’s just a great opportunity for these sports events that they haven’t had access to such a nice facility in the past ... In the future, they’ll be able to have support access,” he said of services that come with having an indoor portion, including wellness and conditioning. “There’s just a really great flexible environment.”

Northam said construction for the indoor portion could start as soon as June, putting an opening date somewhere around the beginning of 2015.

“I just think this is the beginning of something that could really blow up out there,” he said.

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