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July 16, 2014

Proposal requests improving, expanding youth sports facilities

NORMAN — Improving and expanding Norman’s youth sports facilities will generate revenue in tourism dollars, say advocates of Norman Forward, a grassroots initiative launched last week.

The package proposed by Norman business leaders and community stakeholders includes libraries, parks, sports facilities, an aquatic center and a senior center. The ambitious $170 million price tag would be paid by a half-percent, sales-tax-funded revenue bond.

Vernon McKown, a local businessman involved in Ideal Homes, has served a stint as president of the Norman Youth Soccer Association and served on the NYSA board for six years.

“Both of my kids played soccer,” McKown said.

Like Mike Fowler, who is credited as one driving force behind the initiative, McKown is invested in the community on multiple levels. He said the need for more and improved youth sports facilities in Norman is evident.

“I think NYSA has been on a growth streak for the last six years — the last year, we had over 2,000 kids registered,” McKown said. “We have a great complex out there at the Griffin Sports Complex, and we host a tournament every year, but we’re having to limit how many teams can come.”

Norman needs to expand the soccer complex, he said.

“If this new lifestyles project were to come to fruition, it would allow us to build a new baseball complex at another location and then take the soccer and expand it from our current 15 fields to 20 or 21 fields, and we could also put in some larger fields,” McKown said.

The Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau reports that the NYSA’s Sooner Soccerfest tournament generated $762,000 for the Norman economy in 2011, while the Classic Cup brought in nearly $680,000.

NYSA also hosted the Oklahoma Soccer Association Mazzio’s Italian Eatery’s President’s Cup preliminary, bringing in 120 boys and girls from across the state and generating an estimated $1.6 million, according to the NCVB.

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