Since its opening in August 2009, about 300,000 players have come to the Overland Park Soccer Complex a year for practices, games and tournaments, manager Mike Laplante says. The outcome? Livability.com recently dubbed Overland Park the No. 1 soccer city in America.
“Home to one of the most expensive and unique soccer complexes in the country, as well as a passionate and large base of fans, Overland Park gets the top spot on our list of soccer cities,” the website says.
The complex, which cost $36 million to construct and is mostly funded by a hotel tax, features 12 lighted fields with synthetic turf.
But that’s not all. What sets it apart from other top facilities across the country — as if the 12 regulation-size turf fields didn’t already — is that cooling systems below each field control the turf’s temperature. Evaporative cooling fans line each bench while video boards line each field.
“We were pleasantly surprised by the honor, and that’s a testament to the architects and planners,” Laplante said. “That was always our goal —to become one of the premier soccer locations in the country.”
The 96-acre facility has helped drive the local economy, too, bringing in teams from out of town by hosting large tournaments like the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship in 2010 and 2013 and this year’s U.S. Youth Soccer Region II President’s Cup.
“Hotels like the Sheraton and the Doubletree are very pleased by the business the soccer complex has brought them,” Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach said. “Finding the location was the biggest challenge in planning for the facility.
“We wanted to keep it close to the hotels and restaurants. In doing so, it brings people in from outside our community to defer some of the costs.”
Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, who also serves as technical director for the Sporting Blue Valley soccer club, which trains in Overland Park, said the complex helps to better develop local players.
“Because of the field’s features and the size of the facility, local players don’t have to travel as much for big tournaments,” Vermes said. “It’s a facility that can consistently draw the best competition here, which is a big advantage.”
While the complex’s cutting-edge technology is unique, its prime location near hotels, stores and restaurants is just as rare when comparing it to other top facilities across the country.
“Out-of-town teams have found that Overland Park is an ideal destination to play at,” Laplante said.
Local residents have also realized that their city is a great place to compete as well.
Vermes said that the addition of the soccer complex has done wonders for the city’s interest in the sport and will continue to do so.
“I’m a big believer that the growth of a sport comes down to obviously the staff and players, but also the facilities,” Vermes said. “The facilities are what’s been missing (in Overland Park). With a cutting-edge facility like this, you can draw a lot of interest from the community, and the honor shows it already has drawn plenty of interest.”