Johnston County’s largest soccer club owns no fields.
Instead, the Johnston United Soccer Association, or JUSA for short, rents fields at nearly a dozen places in the county.
JUSA leaders hope to change that in coming years by building their own soccer complex.
Currently, a JUSA team can find itself practicing on one field one week and on another field in another community the next. That can create logistical headaches for coaches and parents.
Also, only some of the fields are designed specifically for soccer. Others are vacant lots, schoolyards and the outfields of baseball diamonds. If practice is at one of the makeshift fields, players have to keep a lookout for uneven surfaces, rocks and ant mounds.
“It makes it very, very hard to develop kids without quality fields,” said Brian Stevens, a JUSA coach, parent and board member. “We spend a lot of money to make them as good as we can, but they aren’t even ours.”
This month, JUSA launched a fundraising campaign to buy land and build a soccer complex. The board hasn’t decided where it will buy, but Stevens said JUSA has eyed land along the U.S. 70 Business corridor between Clayton and Smithfield.
Cheryl Mills said she takes her two daughters, Holland and Hannah, to JUSA practices all over the county. One of the practice fields is a grassy area next to the Hess gas station on U.S. 70 Business near Powhatan Road.
“The surface area is not very safe,” Mills said. “We appreciate the use of it very much, but there are a few holes and some fire ants that present a challenge.”
Mills said her daughters started playing with JUSA in elementary school. Both currently play on the varsity team at Clayton High.
“They have done really well with it,” Mills said.
JUSA hopes to have its own fields by 2018. Mills said her daughters will be too old to play by then, but she’s glad that other families would benefit from the fields.
Popularity drives growth
Founded in 2006, JUSA has nearly 1,000 players ages 5-18 who play in one of three leagues. Teams compete against other soccer clubs in the Triangle and throughout the nation.
David Glover, JUSA’s president, said the sport’s growing popularity has driven more kids to the club. Highly-televised events like the World Cup and the presence of a local professional team, the Carolina Railhawks, have sparked more interest among families, he said.
As membership continues to grow, the club will need more space. Glover said a soccer complex could accommodate that while also providing a space to host regional tournaments.
“Whether you are in Archer Lodge, Clayton, Cleveland, Four Oaks, Selma or Princeton, where is the facility that draws and attracts soccer tournaments?” Glover said. He added that tournaments can attract thousands of families, filling local hotels and restaurants.
JUSA has been saving money for a soccer complex, but Glover declined to say how much.
As for the fundraising effort, the first phase is a crowd-funding drive through the website ReachingOurGoal.com. People can donate online at www.reachingourgoal.com/gtolpc.
JUSA hopes to raise $150,000 through the crowd-funding drive.
Later, the club will seek support from businesses and larger corporations, said Mark Morgan, a JUSA parent helping coordinate the fundraising campaign. Morgan said the club might also hold events like restaurant nights and possibly a “foot golf” tournament.
“There is a lot of buying power within this club,” Morgan said. “When you are talking to other companies and restaurants in Clayton, we are a huge population.”
Other than coach stipends, JUSA’s largest expense is for field rental and maintenance.
For most of its home games, JUSA rents fields on Powhatan Road from the YMCA. Those fields are next to Novo Nordisk, a growing biomanufacturer.
“If we were to lose that, we would be without a space for 1,000 kids to play,” said Stevens, the JUSA coach.
One recommendation that came out of a recent Johnston County master plan for recreation was developing a multi-sport complex.
JUSA leaders say they are willing to work with the county and its towns in building a complex.
Glover, the club’s president, said he sits on the Johnston County Sports Council, which helped put together the master plan.
“JUSA was involved in that process,” he said.
Stevens said he’d like for the club to acquire 30-35 acres for its complex. He envisions enough fields to accommodate all practices and games.
For more information on the club’s fundraising effort, go to www.jusasoccer.org.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104