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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 20, 2003

Waipahu's the place to bend it like Beckham

It may not be a classic American sport, but soccer certainly resonates in Hawai'i.

So we're delighted that Waipahu is to play host to the U.S. Youth Soccer Region IV Championships. Starting Sunday, some 10,000 fans and players will swarm into Waipi'o Peninsula Soccer Park for a weeklong tournament. Dubbed the biggest soccer event in Hawai'i history, the competition is expected to generate $12 million in much-needed revenues. The exposure is priceless.

Mayor Jeremy Harris must be basking in some measure of glory. After all, he pushed for Waipahu's deluxe $24 million, 300-acre soccer complex with 19 fields and a 5,000-seat lighted stadium. No question about it. It's an awesome sight.

Meanwhile critics, ourselves included, have wondered whether the complex will pay for itself or if taxpayers will be left holding the bag. There's been talk of charging user fees to tournaments and other "commercial" users to help offset the annual $550,000 operating costs. Right now, the complex is drawing only one big soccer event a year. That's not enough to sustain it.

But rather than slouch back in the peanut gallery and watch it fail, we'd like to see soccer tourism in Hawai'i succeed. Our year-round balmy climate is perfect for it, and we certainly have enough hotel rooms to accommodate visiting players and fans. Plus, we've invested heavily in the Waipi'o Peninsula Soccer Park.

This year, the U.S Youth Soccer Region IV Championships. Next, the World Cup. We can dream, can't we?