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Mitchell complex deemed unworthy to host state soccer tournament

Building the Mitchell Pepsi-Cola Soccer Complex has provided the community the opportunity to host state soccer tournaments.

But after 2015, Mitchell’s bid for the state high school tournament may be put on the backburner.

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The South Dakota High School Activities Association updated its state event hosting guidelines Jan. 1, which states host facilities with artificial turf will be preferred over grass.

“If it’s bad weather, you could have a muddy, sloppy field for two days or eight matches,” SDHSAA Executive Director Wayne Carney said. “You wouldn’t have anything that would resemble a soccer match if that happened. If they have a choice between sites, the preference of turf would determine where the tournament is. You don’t have to worry about the field condition.”

The state tournaments have been scheduled through 2016 with Mitchell hosting in 2014 and 2015 and Sioux Falls O’Gorman hosting in 2016. Carney added these are just guidelines, so Mitchell has a possibility of hosting another state event.

“We’re OK on sites until 2017,” Carney said. “By 2017, maybe Mitchell will have a turfed field.”

Denise Werner, former Mitchell Soccer Association president and leader in the effort to get the complex built in Mitchell, thinks the decision to play the state tournaments on turf should be reconsidered. The complex cost the city of Mitchell about $2 million to build, some of which was raised through private donations.

“Soccer is played on grass,” she said. “These are not creative solutions. This is disenfranchising towns that have stepped up and built soccer fields and complexes.

“We looked at turf, but it’s expensive and wears out eventually.”

Of the 18 Major League Soccer stadiums, just three are played on turf.

The Mitchell Pepsi-Cola Soccer Complex hosted state tournaments in 2010 and 2011 and Werner has hosted 32-team tournaments at the complex since it was finished in spring 2010.

Despite the possibility that Mitchell may not host future state high school tournaments, Werner said building the complex was necessary.

“It was absolutely worth building for the community,” she said. “When we had Cadwell, we ran out of room quick. We built this simply for our community. Hosting tournaments is an extra.”

Dakota Wesleyan University, Mitchell High School, Mitchell Christian and youth recreation programs are among those who use the complex.

Jamie Henkel, Mitchell Parks and Recreation Department recreation coordinator, said the youth soccer programs have continued to be popular in Mitchell. In spring 2013, there were 319 youths participating in the program.

“I think our association is really working at providing other opportunities to play soccer and getting kids involved,” Henkel said. “There are lots of opportunities if they are interested.”

Events that Mitchell is eligible to host include Class AA golf, cross country, any one of the three classes of volleyball, Class B golf, oral interpretation and debate.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.