By CHRIS CHANCELLOR
Port Orchard Independent
Local soccer fans won’t have to travel far to watch games this summer.
Ben Pecora, director of the Kitsap Sports Council, announced at a news conference Wednesday in the Kitsap County Administrative Building in Port Orchard that a new four-day, elite-level tournament will be held July 17-20 at the Kitsap Fairgrounds. The Olympic Premier Invitational Cup will invite only Player Development League teams.
“We’re pleased to have this event at the Fairgrounds in its first year,” Pecora said. “It’s the dot in the middle of the county.”
In time, Pecora and others envision that “dot” expanding throughout Kitsap County. Other locations for future events mentioned Wednesday were Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo.
“This really is one of the most promising athletic endeavors we’ve seen come around,” said Don Atkinson, who works with the Bremerton Athletic Roundtable. “This area is so ripe for quality sports development.
“We see it as just the first step.”
Games will be played at Gordon Field, Silverdale Stadium and on the softball fields at the Fairgrounds.
The Fairgrounds received an extensive renovation in 2004, but Pecora said an effort to bring the games to Kitsap County was already underway. Still, no events likely will be scheduled in Port Orchard in the near future because a lack of playing fields, according to Kitsap County Commissioner Jan Angel.
Pecora hopes that can be remedied in the future because Port Orchard “is an ideal area with its proximity to Tacoma.”
For now, he said the tournament will feature 50 to 60 teams. West Sound FC president Todd Lincoln, whose organization will host the tournament along with the Washington State Youth Soccer Association, believes they can “easily triple” that number in the future.
Pecora estimated the tournament could generate as much as $250,000 for the local economy. Italy-based Diadora, an athletic apparel company, was selected as the tournament sponsor.
He said proceeds from the tournament will go toward creating more soccer fields around the county and to support Westsound FC and Tracyton FC in addition to the sports council.
In addition to the youth tournament, which will feature players from U11 to U19 teams, there will be an adult four-on-four tournament in the evening. Pecora said they partially decided to add that event to it as a “family event” and tap into 30,000 registered adult soccer players in Washington.