By Preston Knight -- firstname.lastname@example.org
MT. JACKSON -- The Shenandoah County Soccer League will get its kicks in at its new digs this weekend.
The grand opening of the soccer complex at the end of Koontz Drive is set to take place Saturday at 9 a.m., with the first games on the three full-length fields scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. There will be additional action on Sunday.
"It's going to be a great day for soccer, for the community," said Bill Woodwell, the league's recreation commissioner. "It's a big day. We're all very excited."
Woodwell said the league has about 460 players, ages 4-15, on 50 teams. In the spring, when interest is typically higher, there were more than 500 players.
All of Saturday's games will take place at the soccer complex, with two fields being used for multiple games at once. For the rest of the season, which runs through October, games also will be held elsewhere in the county. All games occur on the weekend.
Included in Saturday's festivities will be speakers and a visit from D.C. United's mascot, Talon. Pictures can be taken with Talon for $5, and each includes a frame.
The league purchased the Koontz property, a 14-acre former cornfield, for just under $35,000 two years ago. There is still a $50,000 debt to pay for phase one, which includes the three fields, said the league's president, Mike Liskey. When that is done, efforts toward a second phase, with more fields, will begin.
None of that will matter much Saturday, though, as the league celebrates the beginning of a new era. The complex gives the county its first fields designed just for soccer.
"They're probably the best fields most of our players have ever played on," Liskey said. "Most of all, we can maintain them. ... When you kick the ball, it should go where you want it to go, instead of hitting a clump of grass and heading another direction."
Woodwell added: "It's gorgeous. There are no reservations about putting kids on these fields."
Public fields in the county are overused from soccer and other activities, Liskey said. His hope is that the Koontz fields will attract more families because of their look.
"One thing the league needs is new blood getting involved," Liskey said. "[We] need newer folks coming in or folks with younger children coming in. ... Once they see it, maybe they'll want to become a part of the league."