The Bellevue Soccer Club took its first steps in its commitment to revive soccer in the Sarpy County area.
After a year of discussing from within and then another year of going through the motions with the state, the BSC put together its first tournament, as hosts, and will look to turn it into an annual event.
The Club was founded in 1974, but the Walters Soccer Complex hasn’t hosted an event since 1985.
“I’ve been here seven plus the original five years I coached my boys. Now, I’m doing it because I like it,” BSC Treasurer Kevin Cloward said. “I’m coaching a team every year and sometimes, having volunteers, if someone doesn’t step up then it’s not going to get done, so I helped set up the tournament. Being (in the) Air Force for 22 years, I can put a plan together.”
The 2019 Bob Walters Memorial Invitational ran June 7-9 and featured age groups of 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12 years old. Each age group featured girls and boys teams together. Nine different area clubs from Nebraska and Iowa competed in the tournament with a total of 22 teams signing up.
Bellevue University head soccer coaches Mark Heath-Preston and Tom White helped with the event.
“It’s a fundraising opportunity to support our scholarship program. To give that additional chance to touch the ball some more at the end of the season with the proceeds going towards the BSC Scholarship fund,” Cloward said.
The BSC Scholarship fund helps BSC players from low income families and seniors continuing their education.
It’s a “Labor of Love,” as BSC President Cori Lambert put it. The club features nonprofit volunteers with only three employees earning a paycheck.
Lambert, Cloward and President Elect Veronica Smeby have watched their kids develop into young adults at the Walters Soccer Complex, and various coaches for teams in the event played at the complex growing up.
It’s the circle of life that drives those three to put in extra hours of work in a week without compensation. Everyone working at the complex during the tournament was a volunteer, too.
“We want to provide comprehensive soccer programs for the community to whoever wants to play. We do it for the love of it. Most of us, our kids played here and so we just continued on. None of my kids play here anymore and Cori’s is about to age out.”
The BSC is set to host its annual fundraiser outside of Bakers just south of the soccer complex. The fireworks stand is set for June 26th-July 4th. The tent will close at 10 pm each night.
The club also has a 3v3 league starting July 8th that runs for five-straight Mondays. The league is co-ed for all ages and teams can have up to eight players.
BSC wants indoor facility
After a successful first tournament as hosts, the Bellevue Soccer Club is onto its next order of business. The club wants Bellevue to open an all-purpose sports facility like Papillion Landing.
The BSC used the University of Nebraska at Omaha dome in the winter, but since the dome collapsed and there are no plans to rebuild it the BSC is stuck wondering what the future will hold.
Cloward has even gone as far as making a business plan, including location, for such a facility but needs backing to move forward on it.
“The community needs an indoor facility. I have a business plan for that, but I don’t have millions of dollars, nor do I know anybody that does. But the Bellevue community needs something like Papillion Landing,” he said. “If you think of soccer and our winters here, a multi-sported facility would support soccer in the Bellevue community and could be used for this tournament or overflow games because of bad weather.”
The Bellevue Soccer Club is stuck using turfless elementary school gyms in the winter as fields. The BPS Activity Lied Center is filled months, almost a year, in advance, with Bellevue Public Schools and the high schools, middle schools and their feeder teams taking up most of the gym time.
Cloward said the purpose isn’t to just involve Bellevue either. If the facility came to fruition then BSC thinks the facility would bring everyone living around Highways 75, 35 and 370 together for sports.
“If you had something in Bellevue like that, whether it’s community or privately funded, you would get the kids from (all around) coming here,” he said. “That is our ultimate desire is to have access to a year-round facility here in the Bellevue Community, but the club cannot afford to go at something like that without a major financial backer.”
Soccer isn’t the only sport facing down numbers because of feeder teams taking over local facilities, Lambert said. Volleyball’s enrollment has taken a hit in the Bellevue area, too, leaving them to play tournaments in Elkhorn and other places out west when most of the sports and events started east in Bellevue. Even more, Bellevue University doesn’t have an all-purpose facility to fill their needs and could benefit from one.
The Bellevue Soccer teams played at the Walters Soccer Complex, but now will play at Bryan High School because the Walters Soccer Complex doesn’t have turf or lights. Since the BSC is nonprofit, it came down to how much BU would help to establish a field with lights.
“Lights would be a great idea here on maybe one of our fields. It would mean more games which means more money for the club,” Cloward said.
But at the end of the day, the people that make up the Bellevue Soccer Club only have one wish: to bring sports back to the Bellevue area, where they started. And the first step in that process would be an all-purpose sports facility.
“It’s just not an issue that affects us or is specific to soccer,” Lambert said. “Bring it home and bring it back. That is my vision. Something for the entire community. I think we would be really successful in having that space for almost all-year around.”