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Sugar Hill hears soccer proposal

SUGAR HILL -- Soccer was again a focus at the Sugar Hill City Council's work session Monday night.

The self-proclaimed "Recreation City" listened to a second organization's proposal to begin the city's youth soccer organization at its new Gary Pirkle Park.

The council heard a proposal from 30-year-old Atlanta Fire United, the self-proclaimed second largest youth soccer organization in the state, to run Sugar Hill's inaugural program this fall. Already scheduled to move to Pirkle this spring after seven seasons at Sugar Hill's E.E. Robinson Park, the Fire proposed bringing Sugar Hill's program under its far-ranging grasp, creating a localized sub-entity, "Sugar Hill Soccer, by Atlanta Fire United."

An organization of some 3,000 players, the Fire boasted it could offer itself as a long-established organization, a turn-key solution to Sugar Hill's dreams of beginning soccer for an estimated 500 youths. That sharply contrasted last month's proposal by soccer league enthusiast Mike Morgan, who urged his largely single-handed creation of a smaller, upstart entity of exclusively Sugar Hill players.

Regardless of who runs it, Sugar Hill's first league to bear its name would augment the city's three-year-old recreation programs in youth baseball, flag football, cheerleading and lacrosse. Those more entry level recreation programs, run by i9 Sports at Robinson, boast more than 1,000 participants and bring Sugar Hill an estimated $15,000 annually, according to City Manager Bob Hail. Likewise, the Fire, which said it spent roughly $13,000 maintaining Robinson's fields last year, plans to similarly maintain Pirkle's fields.

Sugar Hill's program would play on three synthetic turf fields and two natural grass ones at Pirkle. The program would utilize the park's 255,000 square feet of contiguous synthetic surface, the nation's largest.

"Organizing soccer at Gary Pirkle Park would be a great shot in the arm for us," Fire coaching director Jay Miller said.

Fire Chairman Jonathan Hooper said his organization's move to Pirkle from Robinson is a huge enhancement and an ideal opportunity to launch the city's program.

"E.E. Robinson was a great resource for us," Hooper told the council, "Gary Pirkle Park gives us the ability to provide a much higher level of service."