Thursday, January 25, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, January 25, 2001

City gets national soccer tourney

By Elizabeth House and Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writers

Previous stories:
Waipi'o soccer complex dazzles players, parents
Soccer now has place to call its own
For soccer moms, soccer dads and soccer kids, Honolulu is the place to be in 2002.

That’s when the city will host the 2002 American Youth Soccer Organization’s National Games.

Manny Menendez, executive director of the city’s Office of Economic Development, said the tournament could bring $10 million to the local economy. "If we’re smart on our marketing, I think that number could go up," Menendez said.

The weeklong event will be played in July 2002 at the city’s new Waipio Soccer Park. More than 200 teams, 3,500 players, and an equal number of parents, coaches and referees are expected to take part in the games.

In addition to teams from the United States, several international teams will be invited to participate.

Mayor Jeremy Harris is expected to formally announce the tournament in his State of the City address today. The mayor has been a big supporter of youth soccer and was instrumental in the construction of the 288-acre soccer complex on the Waipio Peninsula.

"The reason we built the facility was twofold: to meet the needs of 23,000 kids involved in AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) and other leagues because they didn’t have enough fields," Harris said. The other reason, he said, was to develop a first-class venue for sports tourism.

Hawaii AYSO director Max Sword said he had the idea of bidding for the national games when construction began on the park two years ago. He submitted a proposal to the national AYSO office last summer.

"I figured that we were going to have a nice soccer facility out there, so why not," Sword said. "We’ve always been lacking in holding these things at Kapiolani Park."

Sword said also submitting bids to host the games were Albuquerque, N.M.; Ontario and Bakersfield, Calif.; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and Salt Lake City.

"When Albuquerque, Ontario and Bakersfield found out that we were submitting, they withdrew. They wanted to come to Hawaii," he said.

Sword said the committee selected Honolulu because of the new soccer park, and also because of the large number of youths involved in the AYSO here. He said there are 23,000 children in the AYSO in Hawaii, the highest per capita in the country.

"It’s a very good for the community, and it’ll be an opportunity for Hawaii to show everyone what we’re made of," Sword said.

The Waipio Soccer Park opened last September and features 19 full-sized soccer fields and a stadium facility with lights. The complex also serves as the home field for the University of Hawaii women’s soccer team.

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