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Sugar Hill council mulls starting youth soccer league at park

SUGAR HILL -- Sugar Hill contemplated another stride as the self-proclaimed "Recreation City," when its city council discussed at its work session Monday whether to begin a youth soccer league at new Gary Pirkle Park.

The city's first league to bear its name would augment its 3-year-old recreation programs in youth baseball, flag football, cheerleading and lacrosse. Run by i9 Sports at E.E. Robinson Park, those programs boast more than 1,000 participants and bring Sugar Hill an estimated $15,000 annually, according to City Manager Bob Hail.

Additionally, the Atlanta Fire soccer program has used E.E. Robinson for seven years, but plans to move to Gary Pirkle Park this spring, when Robinson's soccer space is scheduled to transition to baseball diamonds.

Established soccer league enthusiast Mike Morgan on Monday presented two proposals for starting a Sugar Hill Soccer Club for boys and girls ages 5 to 19. The first proposal was to hastily begin registration as early as Saturday, with practices to start the last week of February and games the first week in March. The second proposal, which Morgan and the council leaned toward, was to delay initial registration until the spring, then begin competition this fall.

Pointing out that rival associations' registrations already had begun, Morgan estimated only a few hundred players might register if Sugar Hill began its program this spring. Waiting until the fall, however, with time to better publicize the league, might garner two or three times as many players and more likely be profitable.

"I'm not as concerned as much about coming out of the gate as delivering a quality program once we do," Mayor Gary Pirkle said.

Morgan, a former player and coach who proposed he run the league, commended the initial 50-acre phase of Gary Pirkle Park, which includes three synthetic turf fields and two natural grass ones. Hail said the park's 255,000 square feet of synthetic surface is the nation's largest.

"Without question," Morgan said, "the soccer complex you've got is top notch."

Sugar Hill Recreation Director Andy McQuagge hinted the league remains far from reality, while the city contemplates its economic feasibility.

"There's a good amount of study that needs to be done and more homework completed to see if we should continue" he said.