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A new football field at the Zoo City SportsPlex in Asheboro.   Eric Abernathy / Randolph Hub

Interest in Zoo City Sportplex is spiking

ASHEBORO — As construction of the Zoo City Sportsplex nears completion, statewide interest in the facility is growing. 


Patrick O’Hara, director of the Randolph-Asheboro YMCA which oversees local soccer events, told the Asheboro City Council on May 4 that “soccer leagues will be calling you.” Interest in the Sportsplex, he said, has been growing, from soccer leagues to professional clubs to university teams.


O’Hara was before the council to give the members an advance look at a Zoo City Sportsplex logo, which will be revealed to the public on May 25. In addition, he told the board that he has been receiving calls from organizations wanting to use the fields for tournaments, for practice and as an adverse weather option.


The YMCA’s agreement with the City of Asheboro is to schedule rentals and make sure tournaments are well-run. The Y will also be charged with marketing the complex, to get the word out. The city will build and maintain the facility.


In an interview the day after the council meeting, O’Hara was joined by Nick McNeill, marketing director, and Joseph Taureck, complex director. They talked about interest in the Sportsplex they’ve experienced as the facility nears completion.


“First, we take care of our community, then offer the facility to other organizations,” said O’Hara. 


Local organizations include Asheboro youth football and soccer leagues. “We have almost 1,000 players here,” O’Hara said. 


Then there is a local Challenge soccer team called Asheboro City Futbol Club that plays other teams from across the state. Also, local high schools have made contact with interest in playing soccer, cross country, American football and lacrosse at the Sportsplex.


The Sandhills Lacrosse league is looking at expanding and would like to see an Asheboro team, which would bring lacrosse travel teams to the Sportsplex. Then there are plans to offer tournaments for outdoor volleyball, pickleball and kickball. There will be special courts designed for those sports.


The Zoo City Sportsplex is expected to host Randolph County Special Olympics as well as the local edition of the National Community Night Out in which police join with neighborhood communities to build relationships. Next year’s event is planned to be held at the Sportsplex.


McNeill said the May 25 unveiling of the Sportsplex logo will be important for branding and getting awareness of the facility. He said invited guests will include sponsors and donors, elected officials and media personnel. Octave Marketing, a local firm, has been involved, at no cost, with creating the brand, website development and social media. The event will be an occasion for education about plans as well as a tour of the site.


Taureck said Pfeiffer University, which is in the process of creating turf soccer fields, wants to do clinics at the Sportsplex as well as having it as a backup during rainy weather. The university may also have a few of its home matches played at the Sportsplex.


American football groups interested in the Sportsplex are youth teams from Asheboro and Lexington. American Football Events would like to have benefit games for veterans. College players who haven’t been invited to NFL camps and high school players who haven’t been looked at by colleges could get attention by playing at the Sportsplex.


Taureck said the NC Youth Soccer Association has shown interest in the Sportsplex due to its central location in the state. Teams from Asheville and Raleigh, for example, could meet here to avoid longer trips. That could mean overnight stays, which would benefit businesses in the area.


The Carolina Core soccer team of High Point is part of MLS Next, a minor league to Major League Soccer (MLS). They have expressed interest in using the Sportsplex. Also, the Charlotte Futbol Club, a MLS franchise, would like to partner with the Sportsplex to do camps and clinics, perhaps even bringing professional players here.


“We hope to blanket the state of North Carolina and the Southeast,” said O’Hara. 


To the City Council, he said, “I think what we have here is a jewel. The momentum is there. Let’s keep it going.”