SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (KGUN) — Sports are not only making the community in Sierra Vista stronger, they're also making the city a more desirable place to play and visit.
Soccer is one sport that’s prospering.
“It’s a sport that everybody gets involved and is constantly moving,” said Reynaldo Romo, president of RSL Arizona, Southeastern Arizona—one of Sierra Vista’s athletic clubs that features soccer teams for several different age groups. “In our community it’s grown tremendously, I would say, especially in the last 10 years.”
Sierra Vista’s Coronado Athletic Club also features soccer teams for several age groups.
“We started off… with just two teams in 2015. So about 30 players,” club director Maria Maxwell said. “We’re up there in the high hundreds now.”
But as the sport grew rapidly, the old Domingo Paiz soccer fields deteriorated.
“‘Cause they were in constant use, it was rough,” Romo said. “We had a lot of holes. We had a lot of patchy grass… Before, we had injuries. If it wasn’t the kids playing, the adults playing, the officials were injured also.”
“It was hard to get people to come from out of town here to play because the field conditions were just not good,” Maxwell added.
That meant no soccer tournaments being hosted in Sierra Vista.
That changed after the city completed a massive remodel in January 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic began.
New artificial turf gave the city’s soccer teams a level playing field, literally and figuratively.
“Our competitive teams are so grateful because when we go play now, our speed of play is way better, because these fields are fast,” Maxwell said.
The turf not only a safer surface but also one that conserves water. The soccer fields—as well as other fields around the city—now feature high-efficiency LED lights, which use less energy.
Those savings helping pay for a $14 million citywide energy initiative project, with about $10 million going to sports components and $6 million invested in new soccer facilities.
Now that investment is paying off.
Last year, the Vail-based ‘Saguaro Classic’ tournament came to Sierra Vista’s new fields—bringing in dozens of teams from across the southwest.
Cochise College also played games on the new pitch.
“During Covid, when all of the fields were actually closed in Tucson, we actually had Tucson league games held here,” Maxwell explained. “Because now we have the facilities for it. So our competitive teams were actually able to have home field advantage.”
It’s also a big net gain for the city economy—with visiting teams bringing in about $3 million so far. About $2 million of that has come in the last year.
“And especially during Covid, it really did a lot to support our retail, bars and restaurants in town and our hospitality industry, and those are just amazing side effects,” said Laura Wilson, Sierra Vista’s Parks, Recreation and Library director. “You know, these parks and recreation outdoor spaces are considered ‘nice to haves.’ We believe they’re critically important to the success of any community.”
Sierra Vista will host its own soccer tournament this spring, with more on tap for the future.
“I’m really happy to be part of this community,” Maxwell said. “When I came here in 2010, I never expected sports to be what they are right now in this town.”
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