Soccer-playing adults and youths, including a group from Lompoc, showed up at Santa Maria High School on Wednesday night united in a love for the sport and desire to see more fields locally.
The need for more soccer facilities arose out of One Community Action Coalition meetings to end youth violence in the Santa Maria Valley, with one approach focused on providing a positive outlet for young people.
“We want to show the need,” said Cynthia Gudino, a volunteer with the grassroots group formed after the city saw a spike in violence. “We know the need. We’re out there. We know what we’re playing in.”
Santa Maria has one regulation soccer field at Atkinson Park. Other sites used for soccer are stormwater retention basins designed to collect rain.
Meanwhile, the Santa Maria Valley has 350 teams with thousands of men, women and youth players, speakers said.
Training camps could be held during schools’ breaks to keep youth busy, Gudino said.
“To keep them doing something that’s gong to keep them off the streets, to keep doing something positive and constructive,” she said, adding it could motivate youth to get good grades and stay out of trouble.
“We need to be together in this,” she added. “We need to bridge the gap between our different cultures.”
Organizers are gathering signatures on petitions to present to city leaders, with Gudino collecting 1,500 alone by approaching people playing soccer throughout the city. An online petition is available here.
With soccer growing in popularity and only one regulation field in Santa Maria, players, coaches and fans are focused on creating the Santa Maria National Soccer Complex.
“We have a real need for a sports complex,” added Orcutt resident Rick Velasco, treasurer for Cal South, a youth and adult soccer association. “We’ve been actually trying to do that for the last 20, 25 years. I think it’s about time we actually recognize that.”
The community meeting was held to show the need for more fields and the goal to develop a site hosting up to 20 fields and support facilities.
Speakers also spelled out the process for making the project a reality, through seeking grants and other financing.
They have identified a site near Battles and Stowell roads as a potential home for the soccer complex.
Organizers hope to complete the facility in less than three years, but first need funding to design the complex.
“Pretty much we’re not playing our potential. We need bigger fields” Gudino said. “We need more opportunity for our ikds to be able to play in a proper space.”
Limited facilities means leagues are restricted, with some youths told there is not room for them to join, she added.
“I’m here because I see them playing outside apartment buildings, I’m here because I see playing in the middle of a street — soccer— because they have no where to go,” Gudino said.
Soccer parents, coaches and players need to join forces since Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada can not complete the project on his own, Gudino said.
Posada has given the soccer committee deadlines for seeking grants and other funding.
Organizers vowed the complex would get developed, bringing applause from audience.
“We are not going away. We are going to continue on until we actually achieve the goal of having a complex in the Santa Maria Valley,” Velasco said.
“This is not the end of it. This is only the beginning,” Gudino said earlier. “I know this is an uphill battle but I’ve done a lot of squats and I’m ready to go.”
The Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Commission will talk about the topic of sports fields during a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall.