CLOVER — In the words of Mayor Donnie Grice, it is Clover’s very own field of dreams.
Hundreds of young soccer players with their parents and coaches showed up Saturday to christen the new soccer fields at Clover’s 50-acre New Centre Park by playing the first games there.
Grice, who opened the day with a ribbon cutting attended by town leaders, likened the park’s development to the 1989 Kevin Costner movie, “Field of Dreams.” He asked the crowd of children and adults who gathered there to repeat with him the film’s famous line: “If you build it, they will come.”
“This park has sort of been like that,” Grice said of the movie, in which an Iowa farmer has a vision that motivates him to build a baseball diamond in a cornfield. “Everyone thought we were crazy when we said we were going to build a park on solid rock.”
But Grice said town officials refused to give up in making their dream for the park happen. The town hauled in truckloads of soil to create fields over the rock, and had to blast through the rock in order to set the lighting.
Grice noted that Clover Town Manager Allison Harvey, who was unable to attend Saturday’s dedication, spearheaded the project. “She would not accept the word no. She would not accept, ‘That won’t happen.’”
Councilman Jay Dover said Clover residents have been anxiously waiting for the park to open. “This is a day that not only the council and staff have been looking for, but the community also,” he said.
After the dedication, all of Clover’s 26 soccer teams, which includes about 250 children, played games on the fields. Said Grice: “I hope all of us will be able to enjoy this park for many years to come.”
Plans call for the park to be developed in phases. The first phase cost about $1.7 million to build. It includes four lighted soccer fields, a brick concession stand and public restrooms, the parking area and the park infrastructure.
Plans for future phases of the park include a splash pad, amphitheater, walking trails, picnic shelters, outdoor basketball, sand volleyball and tennis courts, a disc golf course and a “miracle field,” which is a special type of baseball field for people with disabilities.
Construction began in the spring of 2012, after the town awarded the project to Cherryville, N.C.,-based Beam Construction. But plans have been in the making for more than a decade.
Geoff Swanson, Clover’s recreation director from 1996 to 2005 and now a Lake Wylie-based home builder, said the idea for the park began during his tenure in the department.
Swanson, who has been coaching soccer in Clover since 1996, said the town began a spring soccer league in 2002 — adding to a fall soccer program already in place — and had 190 players the first season.
“Soccer is our biggest sport,” said Swanson, noting that the rec program needed a place for the sport to be played. “The reason that soccer is so big is because it’s both boys and girls.”
Greg Holmes, Clover’s current recreation director, said the youth soccer program, which has teams for ages 4 to 15, now has about 250 players in the fall, and about 375 to 400 players in the spring.
Tim Thiessen, a Clover soccer coach for about 10 years, said his teams played on fields at Clover’s Griggs Road Elementary. But he said the fields were in poor shape because they got such heavy play.
“We’ve always had to play at different fields,” Thiessen said, noting the the park gives the soccer program a place to call home. It also “puts Clover on the map when it comes to club soccer,” he said.
The Town Council chose the name New Centre Park after considering nearly four dozen names suggested by residents. The name was inspired by a now-defunct community named New Centre that developed south of Clover. The community disappeared after the Civil War, but town officials liked the name because it fits plans to promote the park as a new center of activity.