INDEPENDENCE — The city of Independence is ready to kick off the celebration of three new soccer fields.
The city will celebrate the opening of Independence Sports Park, located on Deanne Drive behind Riverplace Apartments Saturday at 10 a.m.
There will be refreshments, prizes, an honorary kickoff and a youth tournament to mark the occasion.
Desires for a sports park began nearly 20 years ago — though it took until 2014 for the current plan to pick up steam, Independence City Manager David Clyne said.
“That probably goes all the way back to 1996 when the city first identified it in the parks master plan,” Clyne said. “It was the first idea of having some kind of sporting complex. It has changed and become more refined over time. We really focused the past couple of years largely in response to the parks master plan update in 2014, I believe.”
The city conducted an online survey — which had about 500 people respond — and reached out to people at the Community Fiesta, the summer music series and other community events, and found soccer fields to be the greatest desire.
“We had lots of feedback from the community that it was a real gap we had in our recreation services,” Clyne said. “We reacted to that. It’s what the public wants and we had the means to get that done.”
With the development of the Riverplace Apartments, the city worked with the owners to develop the land, Clyne said. The Army National Guard assisted on preparing the land, and volunteers worked to make final preparations for the field’s official unveiling.
Joe Penna was one of those who played a key role in preparing the fields.
“I assisted the city in trying to find a way to turn what had been agricultural land into a sports complex,” Penna said.
Getting the land ready to become a soccer field posed challenges — mainly ensuring the ground’s composition was suitable for a sports complex.
“I would say (the biggest issue) was the rocks,” Penna said. “It had been a river bottom, historically. There was a fair amount of river rock mixed with dirt that had to be either removed or covered with more dirt.”
Volunteers finished placing goals and painting lines over the weekend — just in time for the opening party on Saturday.
The fields will be open to the community.
Clyne said Academy FC will host tournaments and games on the fields. The YMCA has expressed an interest in using the fields, while Central Youth Sports has expressed possible interest, he added.
The path to the Independence Sports Park has been a long one — but with the unveiling just days away, all those responsible for bringing the park to fruition hope it will be well worth the wait.
“This is very exciting,” Penna said. “It’s been a work in progress for many years and the community’s patience and persistence is about to be rewarded.”