A small group of people met Saturday in Brownstown to dedicate the Township Soccer Fields and recognize the work it took to build the facility.
It was a stark contrast from the more than 100 children and their families who will soon use the fields.
“When I first came here back in the ’70s, I felt like I was the only one in town who had seen a soccer game before,” said Jack Gillespie, the township board chairman who led the dedication.
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Gillespie said he became familiar with soccer as a “popular local community sport” while traveling in rural communities in South America and Central America.
Ten years ago, as Gillespie remembers it, he learned the township had a responsibility for budgeting for local parks and recreational and cultural programs.
In November 2012, the Brownstown Township Board passed a resolution to budget $45,000 for a cooperative soccer field project with the Jackson County Park Board.
“This is the culmination of all of the efforts by a lot of people to provide the community with something it needed and wanted,” said Larry Raymer of the Jackson County Park Board.
The fields, located along South County Road 25E in Brownstown, came together through the effort of many groups and agencies, giving youth from the western portion of Jackson County the chance to participate in something that they may not have otherwise had access to.
“People in Norman, Medora and other locations expressed interest in playing soccer but didn’t want to have to travel to Seymour to be part of a league, so now, there is a league here,” Raymer said.
The Brownstown Youth Soccer League celebrated its inaugural year last year with more than 100 preschool through 12-year-olds participating in the spring and fall league at a cost of $45 for the first child, $35 for the second child from the same household and $25 for additional children from the same household.
The league started with only five teams in the fall but is expected to jump to more than 16 teams in the spring.
“It has been my experience, of all of the people I’ve met both in my career and free time, the ones who succeed, who show intelligence and drive are the ones who started out in sports when they were young,” said Charlie Murphy, who serves on the Jackson County Council.
Travis Norman handled construction design and plan approval for the fields and is president of the five-member board for the Brownstown Youth Soccer League. He said the fields exceeded their expectations.
“We’ve had teams here from all over, and everyone has complimented us on this facility,” he said. “Even people who have been doing youth soccer leagues for 20-plus years have said this is the best they have seen.”
The fields will receive landscaping and potentially add parking as necessity requires. Gillespie said the township board will continue to support these and other future projects as well as the league.
Gillespie said none of it would have been possible without the help of groups from a large number of local agencies.
“We proved that with effort from all local units of government, we can do things like this. We can do things that build that local community,” he said.
The soccer fields weren’t the first combined effort to help the community, but they may be the largest, Gillespie said.
In 2011, local government groups came together when Brownstown won the $25,000 AT&T Back Home Again In Indiana Decoration Contest. The money sat unused for some time until an idea was formed, with the help of Linda McCormick and Brownstown/Ewing Main Street, to build a multipurpose path.
The township board matched this $25,000 donation to build the $50,000 path.
“Now, you can walk from the fairgrounds all the way to Ewing Depot in Ewing without ever leaving the sidewalk,” Gillespie said.
For information about the league, search for Brownstown Youth Soccer League on Facebook.