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MVNU, YMCA, Sting collaborate to bring youth soccer to Community Fields

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Mount Vernon area youth soccer programs have a new home field at the Knox County Foundation Community Fields at Mount Vernon Nazarene University thanks to a collaborative agreement that is expected to help grow the sport.

MVNU, Mount Vernon YMCA, and Mount Vernon Soccer Association (Sting) recently signed an agreement for use of the Knox County Foundation Community Fields adjacent to MVNU’s Soccer and Lacrosse turf field, at the corner of Cougar Drive and Mount Vernon Avenue. The partnership will serve over 500 youth soccer players in Knox County.

“This collaboration is another example of our community pulling together to figure out what is possible when we collaborate for greater impact. MVNU is thrilled to work with these two partnering organizations to serve the youth and families of our county,” said James Smith, Vice President for University Relations at MVNU. “We believe these fields will help expand youth soccer and serve as another attraction that brings visitors to our community. We are so thankful for the leadership of the Knox County Foundation and other donors to help make this dream a reality.”

“To be in a location that will be our long-term home for Y soccer means so much,” said Emily Vonck YMCA Youth Program/Community Engagement Director. “We are excited and committed to make this a great space and experience for all of our participants and their families. We have an opportunity to continue growing our program in quality and number — which is limitless with this new space!”

The Knox County Foundation Community Fields provides five full-size grass fields that can be reconfigured (relined) into multiple competition spaces. The leagues have worked together to determine the layout and lining of the fields to maximize the space and maintain a sustainable and quality playing surface.

“The new fields give us a combined home for all of our teams,” said MVSA Director of Coaching & Soccer and former president Kevin Peterson. “With the increased space and visibility, we will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with the YMCA to grow the game of soccer in Knox County.”

The Sting program serves around 115 players between the ages of 6 to 15 while the YMCA serves just over 400 players from 3 years old to those in the eighth grade.

Years of discussion and planning for the collaboration have been integral to building a partnership between the YMCA and MVSA. The aligning of forces has provided a more direct approach to growing the sport of soccer at every age with the goal of developing skilled players who are passionate for game.

“This project has really pulled us together in the past few years,” said Peterson. “We have found ways to work collaboratively so that more and more kids can have access to the game of soccer. I see this project leading to substantial growth in the number of kids playing soccer in our programs, but also for our local high school programs.”

“We have learned a lot about each other’s organizations throughout the process of transitioning to the new fields and how our organizations can complement each other,”  said Vonck. “I am excited to see what will develop in the future as we continue to work on what a continuum for soccer in our community could look like. The future for soccer in our community is bright!”

The advantages of the Community Fields are many and include the increased visibility as the fields which are located near Memorial Park, the Mount Vernon High School athletic complex, and the Kokosing Gap Trail. 

“This will draw more kids to the game of soccer, which keeps them active and healthy,” said Peterson. “In addition, good fields draw teams from out of town to play us here. Which has a positive impact on our local economy.”

The City of Mount Vernon is also a valued partner in making this dream a reality by providing parking for the youth programs in the grass area just east of Cougar Drive.

“The City is happy to support the YMCA, Sting, and the MVNU athletic complex. It’s always been a strong relationship that we hope will grow to bigger events like regional and state tournaments. That’s great for the quality of life in Mount Vernon as well as economic development,” said Mayor Matthew Starr.

The Knox County Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant in 2019 which covered half of the cost for grading the fields and additional amenities that will be added, including a pavilion and additional sidewalks.

“It was so exciting to see hundreds of young soccer players and their families enjoying the fields this past spring. It has been an exciting time of development for the community of Mount Vernon and we are thankful for all of the partners that have made these developments possible.” said Smith.

Progress in the north section of the MVNU campus has been extraordinary in the last two years with the additional of the soccer and lacrosse turf field and the youth soccer fields; however, there is more to come.

“This entire community sports complex continues to take shape as we are eager to complete our turf field stadium building in the near future. This building will serve as the hub for the Knox County Foundation Community Fields and will include restrooms, water fountains, concessions, and an eating area. We continue to fundraise for this portion of the project and hope to break ground in the next year.”

Interested in learning more about MVNU’s Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium project or providing financial support? Visit mvnu.edu/future.

Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a private, four-year, intentionally Christian teaching university for traditional age students, graduate students, and working adults. With a 327-acre main campus in Mount Vernon, Ohio, MVNU emphasizes academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service to community and church. MVNU offers an affordable education both in-seat and online to more than 2,100 students from 42 states and nine foreign countries.

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