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The Sporting Insider: Timing Is Everything
Sometimes, unfortunately, timing really is everything.
The Webster University athletics department missed out on a golden opportunity to acquire one of the finest soccer facilities in the Midwest: the Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park located in Fenton, just eight miles from campus.
The A-B Soccer Park — the home facility of the Webster men’s and women’s soccer programs — was recently purchased by St. Louis Scott Gallagher, a local soccer club, for an undisclosed amount.
Rumor has it that St. Louis Scott Gallagher acquired the beautiful complex on the cheap. In other words, Webster could have been a major player to buy the Soccer Park if the athletics department could get the university’s higher-ups to back the acquisition.
But under current conditions, that simply wasn’t possible. The timing just didn’t work out. Webster will officially be kicking off the planning process of the university’s new master plan on Sept. 20 (for the full story, check out Page 3).
The master plan will take 10 months to complete. With the plan in its infancy, there was no realistic way Director of Athletics Tom Hart and the athletics department could even think about making an offer and expanding on such a grand scale.
Hart said the athletics department knew the Soccer Park was available for purchase, but no one from the department spoke with the Park’s seller (Jeff Cooper and St. Louis Soccer United).
Hart said if the new master plan was already in place and the plan said the university wanted to acquire land for its athletic teams, then the athletics department could have taken the potential acquisition more seriously.
It’s exceptionally unfortunate this wasn’t the case. The Soccer Park is a magnificent 35-acre facility containing four natural grass playing fields and two artificial turf fields. There are more than 12,000 seats surrounding the six fields.
As a junior defender on the Webster men’s soccer team, I know we are spoiled to get the opportunity to practice and play our home games at the complex. The Soccer Park’s main field is easily one of the top pitches in the region, and both Gorlok soccer teams look forward to playing on that field this year.
Taking full control of the Soccer Park would have provided Webster with several perks. The complex is in fantastic condition as is (it was built in the ‘80s) and would not have needed many improvements, as noted by Ken Godat, director of communications and marketing for St. Louis Scott Gallagher.
So, Webster would have gotten its money back on the purchase sooner than later, especially with the soccer leagues, camps and clinics that are easy to run and make money off of. Scheduling of practices and games for both Webster soccer teams would also improve.
But of equal importance, recruitment would have been vastly enhanced. I have given tours of Webster’s campus to several men’s soccer recruits, and every time I tell them our home facility is the Soccer Park, their eyes light up.
If I were able to tell them Webster owns the facility, now that would be a game-changer. If you don’t believe me, take a glance at what management of the Webster Groves Tennis Center has helped do for the tennis program’s recruitment.
The women’s tennis team has five outstanding freshmen from across the country on the 2011-2012 roster, while the men have four new freshmen. Being able to say Webster manages the WGTC has at least aided in the recruitment process.
At this point — unfortunately — there’s nothing the athletics department can do. The window for purchasing the Soccer Park has closed. I can only wish the timing would have worked out better. I bet the athletics department feels the same way.