Here are your Thursday headlines from the Lawrence/KC Metro area:
- Sporting Kansas City midfielder and Honduran international Roger Espinoza will don the blue and white stripes of Wigan F.C. in the English Premier League. Espinoza notified Sporting head coach Peter Vermes of his decision to leave the club on Monday. Rumors floated around throughout the summer that Wigan was considering making a move for Espinoza in the summer transfer window, but the club will wait to officially sign Espinoza in the January transfer window — pending a successful work permit application.
- Sporting’s tall, light-blonde-haired goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen earned the MLS’ Goalkeeper of the Year award on Wednesday. Throughout the 2012 season, Nielsen and the Sporting KC defense maintained a 1.02 goals-against average — the lowest and best in MLS history. This isn’t the first time Nielsen has been named Goalkeeper of the Year; he received the award twice in his native Denmark in 1998 and 2004.
by AJ Barbosa
Here are your Monday headlines from the Lawrence/KC Metro area:
- Lawrence High’s girls soccer teams will take the pitch under new head coach Justin Young starting today. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Young was an assistant coach for Pembroke Hill’s boys soccer team in Kansas City, Mo. The school also welcomed Jacob Brewer, the teams’ new assistant coach, who has had ties to the Lions’ soccer program in the past.
- Sporting Kansas City will part ways with four players after declined contract options. Most notably, the team will take the pitch next season without former Real Madrid-star and Brazilian midfielder Julio Cesar, who scored three goals in 53 first-team appearances since signing with Sporting in 2011. Defenders Cyprian Hedrick, Neven Markovic and defensive midfielder Konrad Warzycha also declined contract options on Monday.
Lawrence is dubbed the “Birthplace of Basketball” by many, but for those who aren’t present for any of head coach Bill Self’s imaginably passionate pre-game speeches, or for those who aren’t University of Kansas students and subsequently don’t have access to Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center, there aren’t too many places to play the game.
It’s not just basketball players, either; soccer, volleyball, softball and track and field athletes are at a shortage of high-quality competition venues within Lawrence city limits. Young athletes who aren’t playing for their high school teams or any of KU teams are seemingly left with just a few crowded venues around town.
This shortage hasn’t gone unnoticed by city officials, which is where the $25 million recreation center and sports complex tentatively named “Rock Chalk Park” comes in.
On Tuesday, city commissioners voted to move forward and continue to work with KU Endowment to plan the construction of the proposed complex at Sixth Street and South Lawrence Trafficway – about a mile west of Lawrence Free State High School in northwest Lawrence.
Tuesday’s vote marked a significant step forward for the project, but there’s still more to be done before developers break land. Vice Mayor of Lawrence Michael Dever says the affirmative vote is a result of to the city’s intention on building the highest-quality facilities possible.
“Due to a desire to have a high-quality environment [at the complex], KU Endowment is going to provide the land to the city at no cost,” Dever said. “In return, they want to make sure what we build is going to be high-quality and will be consistent with the facilities that are constructed throughout the university.”
Dever says that some members of the community have expressed concern over KU Endowment’s involvement in the project, as well as the involvement of Bliss Sports, a group KU currently contracts to build and maintain its athletic facilities on campus.
“We had opted for trying to find a way to build this thing without competitive bid,” Dever said. “The university wanted us to use Bliss because they’re already contracted to build KU’s facilities, and they wanted us to use Bliss to build ours.”
As of now, the proposed complex will feature a variety of indoor sports courts, a 22,000 square foot indoor turf soccer field, as well as three new stadiums for KU’s women’s soccer, women’s softball and track and field teams.
Though KU athletics will have access to the facilities, Dever says that the complex’s massive indoor recreation center will be fully available to the public.
“This is being built with the main intention of serving any resident in Lawrence,” Dever said. “The plan is to attempt to build a 185,000 square foot indoor recreation center that would be available to the public and could be rented or leased for volleyball, basketball, and soccer tournaments.”
Though KU’s softball, soccer and track and field teams would likely start competing at the complex once it’s built, Dever insists that the project isn’t just being designed to benefit university athletes.
“KU athletes can obviously use it whenever they want – they’re Lawrence residents, too,” Dever said. “But the intention is for this to be a city facility that would utilize joint parking facilities, joint drive facilities and joint outdoor recreation facilities.”
The complex could also give Lawrence soccer players a much-needed venue for indoor competition in the winter. Students who make the 40-minute drive east to Kansas City to play in indoor leagues could cut their travel time significantly if they’re playing at Rock Chalk Park.
“There’s going to be a [22,000 square foot] indoor turf area that will likely have the ability to be broke down into smaller, futsal-sized fields,” Dever said, adding that the complex’s basketball courts could potentially be used for futsal as well.
“Our main focus is to try and make more access to courts,” Dever said. “Right now, we don’t have many at all and we can no longer use [KU’s] Robinson [Center] for tournaments due to NCAA regulations. We felt that, as a city, we needed more court access and that’s what we opted for with this project.”
City officials hope that the complex will become a premier venue for national athletic tournaments. If the facilities are built to the standards developers are expecting, they could possibly host events like the Special Olympics and state high school tournaments and championships.
Going forward, Dever says city commissioners will continue to work with KU Endowment to draft a contract to highlight the agreement and fine-tune the design and construction contracts. They will also take a look at the project’s finances and if they will translate to the project’s development.
“The next agreement will be to determine what kind of facility we’d build and whether or not the cost estimate would cover all the potential costs associated to what we’d agreed to,” Dever said.
by AJ Barbosa
Here are your Thursday headlines from the Lawrence/KC metro area:
- Lawrence High senior midfielder Justin Riley and junior defender Connor Henrichs were selected to the first-team of Kansas’ 6A All-State team. Riley and Henrichs were the only players from the immediate Lawrence area to receive All-State honors after the Lions’ playoff run ended in the state quarterfinals at Shawnee Mission East earlier this month.
- Sporting Kansas City was eliminated from the MLS Cup playoffs for the second year in a row by the Houston Dynamo, falling 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-0 victory at Livestrong Sporting Park last week wasn’t enough to see them through. Had Sporting scored another goal, the teams would have met in extra time, but the Dynamo’s two goals in the first leg of the cup tie were enough to see them through.
- Lawrence city commissioners voted to continue pursuing a proposed athletic complex in northwest Lawrence tentatively named “Rock Chalk Park.” The project has drawn some concern from opposition over KU Endowment’s involvement. The complex is expected to include a 10,000-seat track and field stadium, new stadiums for KU’s women’s soccer and women’s softball, as well as a 181,000 square foot indoor recreation center that would be open to all Lawrence residents. Lawrence Futbol World spoke to Vice Mayor of Lawrence Michael Dever about the complex and will feature a story on the project’s future on Friday, Nov. 16.
by AJ Barbosa
Though concussions are more prevalent in sports such as hockey and football, they’re still a growing problem amongst all other sports, including soccer. Organizations across the country, including the U.S. Soccer Federation, are focusing their efforts toward educating coaches and trainers on identifying concussion symptoms.
According to a 2011 study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, the symptoms of concussions vary across the board. Headaches are the most common, followed by signs of dizziness and difficulty concentrating. Only 4.2 percent of concussed participants reported losing consciousness, which backs up previous research that indicates concussions aren’t commonly sustained when someone loses consciousness.
by AJ Barbosa
Here are your Wednesday headlines from Lawrence and the KC metro area:
- Any momentum Lawrence High’s soccer team had from their late-winner against Manhattan in the last round of the 6A Kansas state playoffs wasn’t enough to prolong their title run as Shawnee Mission East topped the Lions 1-0, drawing the curtain on the Lions’ championship hopes and season. A first half goal from East’s Bryce McClanahan went unanswered for the remaining 80 minutes as the Lancers held on to win it. Lawrence high senior captain Justin Riley told the Lawrence Journal-World, “It set a foundation for what Lawrence High should be doing and showed the Kansas City schools how soccer should be done here at Lawrence High.”
- Chad Lawhorn of the Lawrence Journal-World reports that city officials will hold a public hearing on “Rock Chalk Park,” a new athletic complex proposed for northwest Lawrence, next Thursday (Nov. 8) at Lawrence Free State High School. Renderings from Paul Werner Architects — provided to the Journal-World and pictured below — appear to include facilities for soccer, track and field and baseball, as well as several parking lots. Lawhorn outlines some of the potential hurdles the project faces in an article today for the Journal-World.
- Sporting KC will have another shot at the Houston Dynamo in the playoffs — this time, in a two-leg aggregate Eastern Conference quarterfinal tie. Houston eliminated Sporting in the Eastern Conference finals at Livestrong Sporting Park with a devastating 3-0 victory last November. The first leg of the tie will be played in Houston on Sunday, with the second leg scheduled for Nov. 7 at LSP. Aggregate goal scoring rules will be observed — all goals scored in both legs will contribute to a two-game combined score, with away goals carrying more weight than goals scored at home (for example, if both teams draw the first leg 2-2 and the second leg 1-1, the aggregate score will be 3-3 and Sporting will advance on away goals, having scored more away goals than Houston).
by AJ Barbosa
In my Multimedia Reporting class last Friday, a representative from KU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs gave a presentation on diversity and race. Almost every class I’ve taken has had something of this nature — a representative from some department comes and peddles their product, hands out pamphlets and leaves.
This was different.
Instead of the usual charade, we were treated to one of the most scintillating and naturally interesting lectures possible. This school continuously puffs its chest and boasts about its diversity, but let’s be honest: We’re still in the middle of Kansas. We’re still in the middle of a corn-fed state that’s predominantly white and, at times, is a little late when it comes to cultural progression (which is ironic when you consider the “free state” days).
The man who gave this lecture encouraged us to further develop ourselves as reporters by taking an evening to step out of our comfort zone — to spend an hour or two with people who we usually don’t, to do things that we usually don’t. My lab professor encouraged one of my classmates who’s covering politics to try going into a traditionally-black barber shop to ask them about politics. My classmate thought it was a good idea, and I think he actually did it.
Soccer, by nature, is an extremely diverse sport. It’s even dubbed “the world’s game” by many. Though the English Premier League and other European leagues have struggled with racism and have started campaigns against it, the game is still played by people of every creed, language, culture and color.
My job wasn’t as hard as I imagine others’ were. I’d seen tons of people playing pick-up soccer at the rec (though it’s worth noting that I haven’t been to work out in almost a year). Nine times out of 10, you could hear them calling out to each other in Spanish. I’d played around with a group of them once when I was a freshman, but I never really continued. Though soccer used to be my comfort zone when I played a lot, the actual physical playing of the game is a bit rusty for me now. Plus, I don’t speak Spanish well at all. If you’re counting, that makes two areas where I’m not as well-versed as I’d like to be, which could also be considered as “outside my comfort zone.”
So I went and played with them.
I wasn’t too nervous about it because I knew that they’d likely be friendly — pick-up soccer enthusiasts generally aren’t snobs. The only things that concerned me were my dusty soccer skills and my inability to communicate in languages other than English. Neither were an issue; after a few missed shots and intercepted passes, my feet gradually started to come back. Luckily all of the players knew a good amount of English, but they still predominantly spoke to each other on the court in Spanish. Luckily — once learned — soccer is a sport that can be played seamlessly by players of any languages. The natural flow and progression of the game is something that could be played effectively in complete silence. I was able to find them and play them through on runs, and they were able to do the same with me.
This experiment/assignment reiterated the fact that soccer is a truly universal game with a truly universal, uncanny language. No amount of cultural barriers can disturb or alter the “beautiful game” when it’s being played by players who truly appreciate and understand it.
One guy was wearing a Manchester City shirt, though, and that was hard to understand and accept. I gave him a little bit of ribbing, but he just laughed and reminded me how City clinched the title 30 seconds after my beloved Manchester United thought they had it.
I told him to wait until next year. He laughed. I laughed. We kept playing.
That’s the beautiful game.