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Cortlandt club continues on quest for soccer park

It’s safe to say any sports organization, large or small, has a field of dreams.

by Rick Pezzullo

The Cortlandt Soccer Club is no exception.

Not only does the eight-year-old not-for-profit organization have a vision for what would be the first soccer park in Westchester, it has found what it believes is an ideal location in the hamlet of Verplanck.

The biggest hurdle is trying to secure the land and financial backing to make what is envisioned to be a multiple field complex that would be attractive for national and international tournaments a reality.

“That is an ideal piece. It’s such an opportunity for this county sports-wise,” Cortlandt Soccer Club Secretary Jeanne Zunich said. “There’s no facility like this in Westchester. They’re very rare.”

The Cortlandt Soccer Club, which serves approximately 90 boys and girls between the ages of nine and 19, first approached town officials about its proposal last year.

The urgency of the club to have access to more fields intensified following the September 11 terrorist attacks when it lost the use of the grounds at Camp Smith.

The club has been allowed back at Camp Smith this spring for practices and plays home games at Hendrick Hudson High School but organization representatives feel a portion of a 100-acre site owned by Con Edison in Verplanck would satisfy its needs, and then some.

“We don’t want to settle for a field here and a field there. It doesn’t allow a program to grow,” club President Marty DiCola said. “We are still pushing very hard for that piece of property. I have a glimmer of hope that it can happen down there.”

Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi said the town approached Con Edison about five years ago to see if it was interested in selling all or a portion of the 100 acres, which includes an approximately 25-acre former quarry that is a popular swimming hole for daredevil trespassers in the summer.

At the time the utility had no interest in selling but has since put the property on the market.

“There are a whole number of possibilities for that site,” Puglisi said. “It’s a prime area. There aren’t a lot of large spots in the town.”

Con Edison spokesperson Dan Lyons confirmed the state has also expressed interest in utilizing part of the parcel for access to the Hudson River.

“We have had preliminary discussions with the state regarding the property and they have been positive and cooperative,” Lyons said.

The Cortlandt Soccer Club is looking for between 10 to 12 acres and has proposed leasing the land from the town.

It is modeling its plans on a soccer park developed in the Town of LaGrange that worked cooperatively with the LaGrange Soccer Club.

The cost of a full-sized soccer field ranges from $87,000 to $450,000, with the lowest figure based on significant volunteer labor and materials.

Once built, the club feels the complex would be self-sufficient.

To get the ball rolling, the Cortlandt Soccer Club is hosting its first soccer tournament, The Hudson Valley Classic, over the weekend of June 22 and 23 at Hendrick Hudson High School.

The club is expecting to have an estimated 70 teams from the tri-state area compete.

Zunich said the club hopes the weekend raises at least $20,000, which will be utilized for the future soccer park.

“It’s not just for our club,” Zunich said of the soccer park. “What we’re going for is something that will satisfy the needs of 1,200 kids that are registered to play soccer in this town.”

“We had a lot of demand for more girls teams but due to space we can’t expand too fast,” she said. “We would love to have space for every person that shows up.”

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