All will be quiet off of Soccer Park Road the weekend before Thanksgiving this year, and next year and the year after that.
The state soccer championships are headed across the state and away from one of the finest facilities in the Midwest. In a stunning turn of events, the Missouri State High School Activities Association announced last Friday it was moving the boys and girls state soccer championships out of St. Louis’s own Anheuser-Busch Center to suburban Kansas City.
The state association was presented with three bids. One from the A-B Center, one from the the Lake County Soccer Complex in Springfield and another from the Blue Springs School District outside of Kansas City. MSHSAA’s Board of Directors voted 7-1 to accept the Blue Springs bid, which means it will host the championships through the spring of 2014.
MSHSAA is on the record saying finances played a significant role in this historic decision. And don’t be fooled, this is historic. Since the sport was sanctioned by the state in 1968, St. Louis has always played host. Since 1985, the Soccer Park, as the A-B Center is commonly known, has hosted.
The move away from the Soccer Park came as a stunner to me. I don’t understand leaving a facility that has hosted college, professional and World Cup qualifying matches and has been a superior home to the state championships for the better part of 26 years. But Priory soccer coach John Mohrmann was not surprised by the news. “I sort of figured it would happen sometime. It’s one of those things. It was bound to happen at some point,” he says.
Priory, which won the Class 2 state title in 2005, could be directly affected by this switch. The Rebels opened the season with seven straight wins and, as of Ladue News press time, had yet to allow a goal. They are the favorite to make a state semifinals appearance. Only their fans won’t be able to drive across town to watch their team play. They’ll be driving across the state.
Mohrmann thinks that’s the toughest part of moving the championship host sight. “It’s disappointing for the fans,” he says. “For students, it’s tough to get to a game across the state.”
St. Mary’s coach Jeff Robben is in favor of rotating the host site year after year between the different corners of Missouri that are capable but he does have one caveat, “You have to play on a soccer-specific field.”
That’s something the Blue Springs School District does not have. The bid that was accepted by MSHSAA is for the state soccer championships to be played on the artificial turf fields at Blue Springs and Blue Springs South.
Classes 2 and 3 will play at Larry Stewart Memorial Stadium on the campus of Blue Springs South. Class 1 will have its own private island, as it’s all by its lonesome at Blue Springs’ Peve Stadium. Both are multipurpose fields that are lined for football and soccer. That, to Robben, is inexcusable. “We’re playing a state soccer championship on a football field,” he says. “To me it’s a slap in the face of soccer. All of the other sports play at a sport -specific facility.”
Soccer Park is a little gray in the temples but was good enough for MSHSAA to come back for 26 years. Elite soccer teams and players have made it their home since 1982. But for the next three years, the Soccer Park will be dark the weekend before Thanksgiving. And that just doesn’t feel right.