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Charles City will pursue ‘Mini-Pitch System’ sports court

Charles City will pursue ‘Mini-Pitch System’ sports court
Charles City Parks & Recreation Department Board member Cory Mutch, left, and Charles City Comets soccer coach Brad McKenzie tell the rest of the board members about a proposal to let the group Kick It Forward raise funds to purchase a Mini-Pitch System — a self-contained soccer pitch/multiple sports court built by Musco Lighting — to be placed in a Charles City Park. Press photo by Bob Steenson
By Bob Steenson,

The Charles City Parks & Recreation Board gave the go-ahead to pursue a “Mini-Pitch System” to be placed in one of the city parks, likely Sportsmen’s Park.

The Mini-Pitch System is a prefabricated mini soccer court including fencing, goals and lighting that fits on a truck and can be installed in two to three days by a three-person crew.

It’s being developed by Musco Lighting and the U.S. Soccer Foundation as a way to make soccer accessible to more kids, but the court can also be used for other sports — and possibly, members of the Parks & Rec Board hope, can be flooded for an ice rink.

Board member Cory Mutch had brought the idea to the board at its September meeting, saying Musco, an Oskaloosa business that is world renowned for its sports arena lighting systems, is offering “ridiculously good prices” as a way of promoting the system and raising awareness.

Last week, at the Parks & Rec Board’s October meeting, Mutch and Brad McKenzie, the Charles City Comets head soccer coach, provided more information about an organization that is working with Musco to bring the courts to more areas.

“The group that I’ve talked to is called Kick It Forward,” McKenzie said. “They’re out of Des Moines, they’re a non-profit. Their purpose and intent in life is to find homes to put these. What their ask is, basically find a piece of concrete that it can fit on, and someone to pay the $100 annual utility bill.”

McKenzie said the group has helped raise funds to install more than 100 Mini-Pitch Systems across the country, including 13 of them in Iowa. A pitch is the name of the field where soccer is played.

According to the group’s website, Kick It Forward was founded by local business leaders who, “after successful college soccer careers, wanted to share their passion for the game with the next generation.”

McKenzie said, “What they want to do is go out and write grants, request money, raise money, then they’ll contract with Musco to build one of those. They want then to donate it to the city, or to whoever would be willing to accept the donation.”

The city’s only responsibility would be paying the utility bill, which, because the pitch is lit with Musco LED lighting, is about $100 a year, and doing maintenance.

Tyler Mitchell, the Charles City Parks & Recreation Department director, said that he, Mutch, McKenzie, a representative from Musco and someone from the school met a couple of weeks ago and looked at possible locations for a Mini Pitch in the city.

Lions’ Field on the former skate park or Sportsmen’s Park on the basketball court next to the pickleball court were identified as the most likely locations, Mitchell said.

McKenzie said, “Musco goes in and preps the surface, fills in cracks, smooths it out and cover it with whatever best surface would be to put on top of it, in whatever colors. It could be Charles City colors, it could be a big sponsor that writes the biggest check. They basically build it with Musco’s design. They have like 16 different sizes — whatever fits that site.

Mutch said the top surface is an acrylic epoxy.

Kick It Forward would do all the fundraising, including asking local businesses and organizations for donations and writing regional and national grants. If they didn’t raise enough money the Mini Pitch wouldn’t be installed, but the city would have no obligation, McKenzie said.

“They just want it to be open to the public,” he said.

Mayor Dean Andrews wondered about the group asking local businesses for donations toward the project.

“My only concern is it’s one more ask of money from the community, and we have a lot of those going on,” Andrews said.

But Parks & Rec Board President Jeff Otto, who owns Otto’s Oasis, said, “As a business owner you get hit every day, so why not another one? It’s a good cause. People don’t have to say yes. See where the grants come in.”

Board members spent some time discussing whether Sportsmen’s Park or Lion’s Field would be a better location if the city gets a Mini-Pitch, and after weighing pros and cons members seemed to be leaning toward Sportsmen’s.

But McKenzie said he had seen agreements with Kick It Forward that said, :site to be determined.”

The board also spent some time wondering if the Kick It Forward group was aware of Charles City’s special relationship with Musco Lighting.

Diane Crookham-Johnson, a Charles City High School alumnus who credits a former high school coach with having a tremendous impact on her life, is one of the daughters of the Crookham family that owns Musco Sports Lighting in Oskaloosa. She was instrumental in the company donating a $400,000 state-of-the-art LED lighting system to the new baseball and softball diamonds at the high school and middle school campus.

“I’m going to be honest,” said board member Dana Sullivan, a former high school assistant softball coach who is now associate principal at the middle school, and who said Crookham-Johnson is a friend. “I’m probably going to text Diane as soon as I get out of this meeting.”

The board voted 6-0 to pursue the Mini-Pitch system.

On the company website, Musco President Joe Crookham says, “The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s mission of positively impacting the lives of up to a million young people in the next decade is something we believe in very strongly. We want them to know that they’re not alone.

“These community pitches will be a place for local youth to learn, grow, develop confidence and teamwork, and have fun. We want to do everything we can to help with this important endeavor.”

Also at the Parks & Rec Board meeting last week, the board discussed a proposal by MSA, a national planning and design consultant, to help the board create a “park system master plan,” including how a new aquatic center would fit into that.

City Administrator Steve Diers said help from a professional organization, whether MSA or some other, could help the board put together a plan and give it more direction. He said creating such a plan could cost $10,000 or more.

Members of the board were skeptical whether they needed a professional group’s help to come up with such a plan, but decided to ask MSA to make a presentation to the board before making a decision.


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