Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Soccer fields can be built elsewhere, preserving popular tradition at track

A small group of paid soccer coaches and their supporters want the land for the convenience of soccer moms from the Catalina foothills and for the increased revenue that paid coaches would enjoy.

A small group of paid soccer coaches and their supporters want the land for the convenience of soccer moms from the Catalina foothills and for the increased revenue that paid coaches would enjoy.

There are two professionally planned 18-soccer-field complexes. One is at Interstate 10 and the other in Marana.

Either would meet the needs of our soccer community for a national tournament site. What is the reason for the demand that the historic Rillito Horse Race Track be torn down and more soccer fields built on that property?

The Rillito properly was given to Pima County in 1971 on the condition that horse racing be held for 20 years. In 1981-82 a secret “deal” was made to sell the properly to developers for $7.5 million.

The then-Pima County Board of Supervisors reneged on the condition of the gift and terminated a horse-racing lease. The 2,500 people who made their living at the horse track were out of work.

The five months of horse racing in those times brought more than $30 million annually to our community. We stopped the sale and wrote an initiative that more than 62 percent of the voters passed. The initiative included using the property for soccer and other sports along with horse racing.

More than $400,000 was spent by private citizens to keep the property from being sold to developers. In 1990, county bureaucrats tried to sell part of the property.

We stopped that.

The county has deliberately made the property an eyesore by not maintaining it. The county wouldn’t let the Amigos soccer team play, there, but did allow a Phoenix team. The Amigos were popular locally.

County officials have spread misinformation about the other two tournament sites. For whatever reason, they wanted to eliminate horse racing and tear down the historic clubhouse structure. They have a predictable motive.

We are the second-largest county in the United States. Approximately 88 percent of the land in Pima County is owned by governments. The concept that the Rillito Track is the “only” location for a national tournament site is ludicrous.

A small group of paid soccer coaches and their supporters want the land for the convenience of soccer moms from the Catalina foothills and for the increased revenue that paid coaches would enjoy.

The county estimated that it would require $38 million to build a racetrack facility in Marana comparable to Rillito. That was the replacement racetrack presented to the Race Track Advisory Committee.

A bait-and-switch has taken place with a proposed $6 million facility at the Pima County Fair Grounds. That was never discussed with the Rillito Advisory Committee.

In addition, the current bond committee proposal is to tear down the facility now and maybe later deal with a new track. The advisory committee recommended that racing stay at Rillito until a new track is built. What is being proposed is not fair or honest.

We have supported soccer and other sports for more than 25 years. We support building a national tournament site on any of the available vacant lands.

We also support keeping our historic Rillito Race Track and the ability to keep this industry alive in Tucson. Some 9,300 people attended the last day of racing on Feb. 24.

You can view plans for the two national tournament sites and see part of the history of our national historic site by visiting our Web site at www.saverillito.org.

Ed Moore is a former member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors and was instrumental in the 1984 referendum that protects horse racing at Rillito until 2010.

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MORE ON RILLITO

EDITORIAL: Use Rillito for soccer.

GUEST OPINION – SOCCER: Complex would improve lives of our children, and provide a boost to the local economy.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: What you think.

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