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North's girls soccer coach thanks Sugar Hill Council for use of park

SUGAR HILL -- North Gwinnett girls soccer coach Mark Karen is grateful for his school's first ever state championship last month. Monday, at the Sugar Hill City Council's monthly work session, the team's 10th-year coach thanked council members for what he considered their vital role in the Class AAAAA title.

If not for the council allowing the Bulldogs to practice some afternoons during a rainy season on the turf fields of new Gary Pirkle Park, Karen said his team might have fallen short of its 3-0, rain-soaked championship victory over Northview that made it Gwinnett's eighth team to at least share a girls title since 2003.

Otherwise forced to practice in North's gym, the Bulldogs (19-3), AAA semifinalists in 1999 and 2000, took advantage of two-hour practices on Pirkle's 255,000 square feet of turf, reportedly the Southeast's largest contiguous synthetic surface of its kind.

Karen said use of Pirkle's fields, even before the park's March 13 grand opening, was an equalizer against teams like Northview, which have turf facilities.

"Having (Pirkle Park) in our backyard so to speak has been a great blessing for us," Karen told the council.

"We did not take for granted the ability to practice on a wonderful playing surface, regardless of the elements, in order to keep the flow of our day-to-day practices and game plans going in order to have a successful soccer program," Karen wrote in a thank you letter he provided council members.

Also Monday, the council reviewed Precision Planning's three-dimensional computer images of its chambers and the grand staircases in the lobby of the city's planned $8.5 million city hall at the corner of West Broad Street and Temple Drive.