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Instead of being flat, it had sloped sides meant to help with drainage and small islands of grass in a sea of dirt. Point being, it was a pretty lousy place to play soccer.
I can't remember where some of the fields were, but we had to travel pretty good stretches to get any available space. Then in , with some newly seeded Bermuda grass at Memorial, minor league soccer made its first try in Asheville.
The women's Blue Ridge Rapids had former U. There was talk of a men's team to follow. But by , the Splash had folded.
It was a pity because that was the same year Memorial got lights and, more importantly, artificial turf. A city financial report said the Splash was supposed to cover it.
He called the situation "pretty frustrating," but noted in the end the turf would be used for a wide variety of activities besides soccer, "which was OK because it was for the community.
Tropical storms washed away the first attempt to open the John B.
Lewis Soccer Complex in East Asheville, but by the multifield artificial turf complex was open for business. In a matter of five years, 6, youth and adult players were using the complex, making it the most popular sports facility in the region. Organizers estimated , annual visits.
Interest in the national team and European leagues also grew, as evidenced by my favorite bars suddenly being standing-room-only when there was a big game on television. Asheville City came together so fast that coach Gary Hamel noted they only had time for one minute practice before the team's first game on May 6 at home against the Georgia Revolution Football Club.
The roster included British nationals playing for U. There was also Logan Woody, son of the Rapids founder.
The Blues won the opener I was, sadly, out of town. And the packed stands around the field could be best described as a frenzy of pent-up soccer joy. This is the opinion of Joel Burgess, longtime soccer player and enthusiast, who covers the city of Asheville.
Reach him at jburgess citizen-times.