"The problem is the recreational use is going to be so intense," says Mark Hughes, pastor of Berea Baptist Church located across from the proposed entrance to the complex. "Our main concern is that this flies in the face of Hanover's comprehensive plan of preserving the county's rural atmosphere."
On June 6, Hughes and a host of county residents intend to submit a letter of petition opposing the complex to the Hanover Planning Commission.
Hughes is careful to note that he is critical of the plan as a neighbor, not as part of the church's concern for its members' safety and unimpeded access to its property.
Hughes says critics raise a series of objections to the soccer fields. They say Hanover's water table could be stressed by the use of extra million gallons of water a month needed to irrigate fields; that bright field lights would be kept on until 9 p.m.; that traffic would increase dramatically; and the land would be unavailable for other recreational uses like biking and bird watching.
For Lee Jones, a Hanover resident, it's simple. "Rockville doesn't need to be soccerized," he says.
Try telling this to the 3,000 Striker kids and families who want a new, bigger, better place to play. The Strikers own and operate 10 fields in Henrico County off Pouncey Tract Road and lease roughly a half-dozen fields in Goochland County.
"If we don't build a new complex we'll have to turn kids away," says Strikers president Ian Wilson. In Greater Richmond, he points out, there are more than 20,000 youth who play soccer, and the number is growing exponentially. "There are more soccer players [in Richmond] than any other sport," says Strikers executive director Jim Renehan. "We're really excited to do this it allows us to meet the demands."
But Hughes and Jones are among those who think the demand is unreasonable. "I can only imagine what 3,000 kids and soccer fans sound like," says Hughes. "No amount of haggling over the details will make it tolerable."
The team, which builds and pays for all its own fields, maintains that water usage isn't an issue. The few wells that could be drilled would be used to offset pond-surface water when it is depleted, Wilson says.
The vast stretch of farmland off Mile Brand road currently is under contract by the Richmond Strikers, which recently sold a smaller portion of land it owned in Hanover in favor of the larger tract.
Wilson and Renehan say they don't know how much the Strikers' Hanover complex could cost or when it would be open. (A date of 2004 is tentatively mentioned.)
The Strikers' Wilson says the organization is doing what it can to assuage neighbor's fears. "We don't view this as having a negative impact at all, but just the opposite," he says. "It's just kids running around playing soccer." BRANDON WALTERS