Residents of The Springs say they just want answers.
That’s why they asked for representatives of the county and Cherokee Soccer Association to meet with them Thursday night so they could voice their questions and concerns about the new Cherokee County Soccer Complex, which backs up to their subdivision.
“It seemed very evident that there was a lack of communication about what’s going on and what’s intended,” said state Rep. Sean Jerguson, who moderated the meeting. “I thought it was very prudent that everybody can communicate.”
The soccer complex is on Blalock Road, approximately 500 feet outside the Holly Spring city limits.
Jennifer Paire, who lives in The Springs, said she’s not opposed to the park but is concerned about the times of operation, noise and lights.
“I wish there were not lights, mainly because lights later means noise later,” Paire said.
Paire asked that the soccer association use as much daylight as possible, as she says there are stretches of daylight when the park isn’t in use, but John Blandeth, the president of Cherokee Impact, which manages the soccer fields, said it’s hard to begin practice before 5:30 p.m. because the players are in school and parents and coaches are at work.
There are no night games, and the lights used are practice lights, which the soccer association pays $15,000 to rent.
“As soon as we can turn those lights off, we turn them off,” Blandeth said. “We have to pay for those lights.”
Paire said all the residents want is understanding.
“That is what we seek, to understand,” she said. “My household does not back up to the property, but there are others here who do who have small children who would make great players.”
“Not if they don’t have the chance to practice, they won’t,” Blandeth interjected.
Kari Cleveland lives in The Springs and said her side and back yards abut the park.
“I ask for no lights,” Cleveland said. “That’s my main concern because it’s so much into my property.”
Steve Marcinko said he’s looking for a commitment.
“We feel like we’ve been blindsided the whole time,” Marcinko said.
He said the park, which includes 800 parking spaces, was put in the wrong location.
“It never should have been put there, and now we have to adjust to it,” he said.
Marcinko said he wants CSA to be a good neighbor.
“You guys are guests out there,” he said. “You have come into our neighborhood without any respect. You’ve just bulldozed your way in. We’d like to see the attitude change a little bit.”
While the complex is county property, county officials said that the soccer association will decide who uses it. Jerguson asked how the county can justify calling it public property if the public can’t use it.
“There’s no playground at this park,” Harry Johnston said. “It’s not that kind of park. It’s just ball fields. We don’t just allow anyone to come in and start a baseball game at a park. It has to be approved by county management.”
However, Johnston said the jury is still out as to how the park will be used when no soccer practices or games are being held. Officials can’t control traffic to the facility while at the same time opening it up to the park, Johnston said.
“That bothers me because it is, after all, a public park,” Johnston said. “I hate to gate a public park. It’s a good place to fly a kite, big open space. I’d like people to do that.”
The soccer association has control regarding other organized groups but not over individual families, said Chris Hampton, the chair of the Cherokee County Advisory Board for Parks and Recreation.
“Now, if it’s 5:30 p.m. and soccer practice starts at 5:30 p.m., they have first right of refusal because they’ve paid for that space,” Hampton said. “Outside of that, the word public is what it is.”
However, Blandeth said there have been problems with adults littering the complex with beer cans.
“Do we care if you’re out there with your kids playing?” Blandeth said. “No. Do we care if there are 70 adults out there playing or drinking beer? Yes.”
Vic Feldman said her entire family loves sports and were excited about the new soccer complex. However, Feldman said she wants information.
“The information that I get is nasty and sarcastic,” she said.
There also trails behind Feldman’s house, which she says kids and teenage couples use.
“I accept that, and it’s fine,” she said. “What I don’t accept is people who are playing sanctioned or unsanctioned games late at night wandering through my back yard.”
Feldman said her primary concern is noise pollution.
“I’m trying to remain calm because I’m very angry,” Feldman said. “I’d like to know why there was no noise pollution study done. My husband and I cannot sit outside when there is a game going on and have a conversation. I cannot sit in my kitchen with my window open during the 10 p.m. soccer games, and have dinner and have a conversation.”
Officials said that soccer players aren’t using the fields near Feldman’s house, but Tammy Dorsten said it doesn’t matter where the noise is coming from.
“We don’t care who’s making the noise,” Dorsten said. “We’re saying why weren’t these considerations done before you came in. it doesn’t matter who’s making the noise. We still have kids to put to bed, and we still have family time that we’d like to do together. We’re not asking for what do we do now? What if? We’re asking why. It would have been better for you guys to say, ‘That really stinks, and we’re sorry. What can we do to fix it?’ We just want you guys to say, ‘You know what? We’re really sorry. We screwed the pooch, and this is what we’re doing to fix it.’”
Cherokee County Manager Jerry Cooper told Feldman he would take her up on her invitation to come to her house and try to have a conversation in her back yard while games are going on.
“You can’t study noise until it happens,” Cooper said. “We’ll go experience it.”
Brooke Caldwell attended the meeting to represent her parents, whose property aligns with Field 4 at the soccer complex. Caldwell said that, while her family loves that the soccer fields are there and that children are outside rather than playing video games, they would like some kind of buffer between their house and Field 4.
“We’re getting the light off of Field 4 when you guys have them on,” Caldwell said. “When we go outside, we can’t look (in that) direction because we’ll get blinded.”
Officials with the soccer association said that noise and traffic should actually be lighter next spring because not as many teams will be playing. The soccer association’s season runs from April to November. Signage should be done in the next year.