The Playing Fields Of Decatur
Soccer fans raving about Jack Allen
By Michael Wetzeland Bradley Handwerger from the Decatur Daily
DAILY Sports Writerssports@decaturdaily.com
"Decatur-Bound," "We're going to Alabama" and "Soccer player on board," were but a few hand-painted messages on the steady flow of cars, trucks and vans with license tags from as far away as Texas parking at Decatur's Jack Allen Recreation Complex.
"Folks seem real excited to be here," said Kellie Sims, Decatur therapeutics supervisor, who was one of five people working the entrance. "We've heard plenty of positives about the complex, and everyone seems to be glad they're here."
Another gate worker, David Wisdom, assistant manager at Wilson Morgan Park, perhaps summed it up best. "They love their soccer," he said.
For the third event in three months, Decatur's new sports complex passed the ultimate test — visitors continue to say it's simply one of the best facilities in the region.
Thousands are in town as 50 teams from 11 states participate in the United States Youth Soccer Association's President's Cup, a regional championship for youth soccer players.
On Friday, the fields at the Jack were even mentioned in the same breath as the ones at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla.
That's saying something, considering Orlando is a smidgen bigger than the River City and Disney has just a tiny bit more money than Decatur Parks and Recreation.
When Minerva Roman, whose son Pablo plays for the U-18 Greater Osceola United team based near Kissimmee, Fla., heard that the Division II, Region III championships were to be in Decatur, she said she wasn't quite sure where it was located.
"We got the atlas and found out where it was," Roman said. "It was far away. I like it (Decatur) because it's like when I moved to Kissimmee 17 years ago. It's small."
The drive took Roman and her son's team nearly 13 hours, including stops, to reach Decatur.
For others, the drive wasn't quite as long.
Mark McClurg's son Garrett plays for Atlanta Fire United, a U-14 team from Georgia. The 3�-hour trip was short enough, McClurg said, that they were able to leave Friday morning.
Even though his family had spent a short amount of time at the complex, it had left an indelible impression.
"I'd have to say I wasn't expecting anything quite as nice," McClurg said. "The fields looked to be in good shape. It's one of the nicer complexes we've traveled to and played at."
He said he would put it up there with Disney's Wide World of Sports.
Pat and Jody Boudreaux of Lafayette, La., sang praises about Decatur while their son Taylor, No. 11 for the Lafayette Thunder, played defender on field 7.
"This is certainly the best complex we've seen or played on," Pat said. "The fields are better than anything we have in Louisiana."
Her husband, Jody, agreed. "The tournament is so well-organized, and the facility is fantastic," he said. "You could tell when the kids walked out on the field for the first time, they would enjoy playing here against such quality teams.
"This is like the mini-World Cup for these kids, and the facility and hospitality in Decatur hasn't disappointed anyone."
New Iberia, La., natives Don and June Shoopman couldn't have agreed more with their fellow state representatives. They were in town to watch their son Jacob play for the Lafayette Krew, a U-18 squad.
"It's a privilege to be here," Don said. "It's prestigious to me, this setting and this whole thing. It's amazing."
Added June, "We're amazed at the facility. We've never seen anything this nice."