New soccer stadiums on the way in east Montgomery

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Moving dirt, moving ahead.. laying the groundwork for the much-improved soccer complex behind AUM.

Paul Hankins is reluctant to take the credit but the YMCA and the city of Montgomery say he is the one who spearheaded the project to make the state-of-the-art soccer facilities a reality.

Hankins' two children played soccer. That sparked an idea after moving to Montgomery a few years ago with the military.

"I'm just one person behind the scene. We moved here from D.C. and they had 25,000 kids playing soccer at several fields and no facilities," said Hankins.

First, the logistics.

10 international championship caliber lighted soccer fields with seating capable of handling 4,000 people.

Thinking big was the always the goal.

"We expect to have youth games, high school and college including championships on the NAIA level," Hankins said.

The overall cost of the complex will be around $2 and a half million, most of it will be paid for by Montgomery. Supporters say this is a net gain for everyone.

Even if you don't care for the game, Paul Hankins is convinced just one tournament over a six-day period could in theory bring in millions of dollars of added revenues for the city treasury.

"You're looking at a lot of spend-the-nights at local hotels and even when the economy is bad, parents still spend money on their kids," said Hankins.

Soccer is reportedly one of the fastest growing sports in the world, particularly among the Hispanic population.

Of that two and a half million, the YMCA in Montgomery has agreed to raise $500,000 to be paid back to the city within 5 years.

Hankins is a member of the Central Alabama Sports Commission and he says the commission has already gotten between 10 to 15 emails from soccer organizations wanting to know when the stadiums will be finished.

Some perspective on the deal.

Decatur, a city of more than 56,000 people, spent $13 million building a soccer complex but city leaders started from scratch. In east Montgomery the infrastructure was already in place; old soccer fields.. the land.. nothing had to be torn down. A high-end investment at a fraction of the cost.

"It will be one of the best in the southeast," promises Hankins.

Construction well underway, completion date one year from now.

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