BUILT WITH HARD WORK AND LOTS OF HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS
Valley Soccer Club, Inc. has been sponsoring youth soccer programs for Schoharie County and its surrounding areas since 1982 when a group 20 boys organized an under 19 traveling team to represent the Cobleskill Soccer Club in the newly formed Capital District Youth Soccer League (CDYSL).
In 1991, the club’s name was changed to the Valley Soccer Club as more kids from Middleburgh, Schoharie and beyond began to join the ranks of players looking for a higher level soccer experience, membership increased to include boys and girls teams ranging in age from 6 to 19. The introduction of our summer and fall recreational programs brought club membership up to over 400 players.
Valley’s home fields were originally located at the “Creek Fields” west of the SUNY Cobleskill campus. While most scheduling conflicts were accommodated by the Middleburgh and Schoharie school districts, the complex could only support one regulation and one small sized field for home games. The club struggled to find adequate field space to meet the demand of its growing traveling program and the desire to keep everyone together.
In 1992, Club President Vern Gordon organized a land committee that included himself, Dick Wright, Jim Heiser, Marv Krohn and Marty Selleck. The group’s objective was to begin what would end up to be a five year search for property to expand the club’s facilities and develop plans to fund the project that would provide a multi-field complex with a building that combined equipment storage and a concession stand. A special “Land Fund” was setup to divert proceeds from tournaments and fundraising projects to support the land purchase and field development.
One of the first big fund raisers outside the realm of tournament proceeds was brought to the table by Coleen Norberg. As a promotion for a new Filene’s Department Store opening in the Capital region, youth organizations were invited to compete for huge cash prizes just for selling tickets to their grand opening shopping spree. As luck would have it, we had a lot of shoppers in the club and to our surprise we won the $2,000 prize for small size organizations. The problem was we couldn’t collect the money because we were not an official tax exempt organization in the eyes of the federal government.
The group definitely was NOT going to give up that money. By November of 1995 the paperwork had been signed to make us an official 501c3 not for profit organization, complete with another new name, Valley Soccer Club, Inc.
While this obstacle delayed collection of our prize money, Filene’s came through with their contribution. Now armed with a tax exempt status, the club felt we could be much more attractive to large corporate sponsors once land development began.
By the spring of 1997, the club was still unsuccessful in finding property that was both affordable and suitable for building soccer fields in the Cobleskill area. With kids and grandchildren actively involved in the Valley Soccer Club as motivation, Roger and Jim Barber of Watsonville approached the club about the possibility of purchasing a 29.5 acre vacant hay field located very near to the old Partridge Nest Athletic fields in the Walhalla Rocks area south of Fultonham.
The club approved the purchase of the land in July and at a special ceremony at the club meeting on August 21, 1997, Jim, Cindy and Grace Barber signed the purchase agreement with then Club President, Dick Wright and Vice President, Jim Heiser. The land committee became the field development committee and was joined by Henry Whitbeck, Jerry Hughes, Rich Brown, Pete Norberg, Rich Standard and Randy Roland as the construction phase for the complex began.
Knowing any new fields would not be playable for least a year and a half, the group decided that if we could get some heavy equipment, seed and lots of volunteers, we could build at least two fields and get grass planted before winter set in. If all went well, we could begin to move league play to the new complex during the spring 1999 outdoor season. Plans called for at least one new field to be added each year until the 7 field complex was finished.
By the end of the first week in September Jim Heiser and Henry Whitbeck, on loan from Lamont Engineering, had surveyed the land, drawn the plans and driven the stakes to mark the boundaries for the first two fields. A sign proudly marking the site as the “Future Valley Soccer Complex” was put in place and the ground breaking had begun.
For the rest of the month, passers-by could see Jerry Hughes and Al Vamosy perched on top of bulldozers on loan from the New York Power Authority with Jim and Henry checking measurements. All worked tirelessly to move dirt and grade the fields in the race to get them ready for the 50 to 75 volunteers to take over each weekend. Equipped with rakes, shovels and wheelbarrows, friends of Valley ages 6 to 60 gave up their spare time to pick up tons of rock and put the finishing touches on the fields to prepare them for seeding. By mid October, the grass was growing.
In the summer of 1998, armed with a little more experience, Jerry and Al fired up the bulldozers again to start construction on a second regulation sized field. This time, while some hand work was still needed, Rich Brown and Rich Standhart made arrangements to bring in a power rake to handle most of the rock picking chores in one weekend. By the end of September the third field was seeded and finishing touches on a roadway leading to a small parking lot had begun.
In a newsletter to the Club, then president Marv Krohn announced that the upper fields would officially opened for Valley’s first league season in April of 1999. By then 230 players representing 12 traveling teams brought participation in soccer for the club to a new high.
Field construction was suspended for the summer of 1999 while Vern Gordon, Randy Roland, Jerry Hughes and Rich Brown spearheaded activities toward drilling a well, bringing power to the complex and bringing in and spreading more stone for the road and parking lot.
The beginning of April 2000 saw the official opening of the lower field. The day was memorable not only because Valley’s U19 United team won the game, but because it was the first ever Eastern New York State Premiere Soccer league game played between Valley United and a premiere team from Commack Long Island known for rostering nationally ranked players. Valley United eventually took the league title that season. Home games hosted top teams from the Capital Region and as far away as New York City and Long Island, which brought the area to life with some of the best soccer in the area.
Once the regular CDYSL league season was underway at the end of April, activity at the fields was booming. Field maintenance crews often headed by Pete Norberg, Rich Brown, John Wilsey, Rob Roney, Dean Roney or Ned Ostrander kept the complex ready for play. Coaches supervising practices and games kept the fields busy almost every night of the week from April to June.
Our first outdoor tournament at the new fields hosting teams from all over the Capital region was held on the second weekend in June. The weather was sunny, the soccer was great and the view of the Valley was spectacular.
That summer the fields hosted an MLS Team camp. “Friendly” games with a team from Naples, Italy were hosted by Valley’s U14 Blazers as part of an international exchange program which began with the United’s trip to Italy two years before.
With the fields fully “broken in”, the club decided it was time to host a Grand Opening celebration to show off our accomplishments and express our thanks to those who helped make our dreams a reality. The committee, chaired by Lori Paciorek, spent that entire summer planning the event..
September 10, 2000 was filled with activities for the kids that included an MLS Soccer clinic, a shoot out and very poplular “dunk the coach” booth. Individual teams displayed memorabilia shared their soccer experiences outling the club’s history. A chicken bar-b-que provided lots of food to top things off.
The official dedication ceremonies, presided by Club President Pete Lindeman, included a ribbon cutting, blessing of the fields, the planting of a ceremonial tree, and lots of speeches recognizing coaches and club officials past and present. The final event was the presentation of a plaque dedicating the fields those whose tireless contributions of time, energy and/or money made everything possible.
In the spring of 2001, the club approved a request from Middleburgh Central to use the Valley Complex during the high school season for the next two years until a major construction project at the school was completed. In trade, MCS agreed to maintain the field from August to October. As the same time, Middleburgh Telephone Co. approached us about hosting the “Middleburgh Telephone Fall Soccer Classic”, a pre-season tournament co-sponsored by them, the MCS athletic department and Valley Soccer.
Preparations for both activities motivated the club to continue with the planned expansion of the parking lot to accommodate the extra traffic and begin construction on a second small field and third regulation sized field to continue field development at the complex.
The summer of 2001, however, brought record breaking high temperatures and very near drought conditions to the area. By August, MCS captain’s practices had begun and the fields just kept getting drier. As the Fall Classic and the high school league season drew near, the club was concerned that damage to the fields would be devastating if we didn’t get some soaking rain.
Once again to our rescue came Roger Barber. After attending a scrimmage at the fields a week before the first tournament game, he announced that something needed to be done to save the fields. The story goes that he went home, held a family meeting with his son Jim and by the end of the next day a pump was in place, irrigation pipe was stretched from the creek and their “Aquarain machine” was brought to the fields. For the next several days Jim organized a crew of volunteers to monitor irrigation activities that pumped water from the creek to water the fields and bring them back to life. That gesture literally saved the complex.
While the fields were being watered, Jerry Hughes again made arrangements to borrow the heavy equipment this time from Lancaster Development and began leveling stone trucked in from Cobleskill Stone Products to finish the parking lot expansion just in time for the first game of the Fall Classic.
By mid October, Jim Heiser & Henry Whitbeck had completed the site work for the two new fields. Jerry and Al were joined by Jerry’s son Cory as the fields were roughed out. Unfortunately, time was not on our side to get them seeded before winter so the following spring the club decided to try hydro seeding to put the opening of the additional fields by 2004 back on schedule.
The club’s focus in 2003 moved toward improving the complex beyond playing fields and parking lots. While hopes to construct a larger multi-purpose building are still in the future, an immediate need for additional equipment storage space for our growing collection of maintenance equipment identified itself as a high priority for this year. A pre-built storage shed was purchased in April to meet that objective.
The West Fulton Rod and Gun club had been on record for several years as a source of assistance when our building plans were in place. With the equipment shed on site, our next objective was to provide some much need shelter from the sun during the league season.
On May 17, 2003, 15-20 volunteers from the West Fulton Rod and Gun Club sponsored a workday at the complex to take on the project. By the end of the day, a stately a 24’ x 32’ pavilion stood where a patch of green grass stood the day before. All for the cost of a few supplies and much appreciated contributions of time and craftsmanship from our friends. The addition of picnic tables now makes it attractive to teams and visitors to sit down and enjoy a snack or just enjoy our view of the valley. Read more about it
Valley Soccer Club has been very fortunate to have had so much support over the years to make the building of the soccer complex so successful. Pete Lindeman said it best with the following words inscribed on the plaque presented to the club during the Opening Ceremonies.
It is to all those individuals who have labored here, who have looked up from their toils to see a hawk against the blue sky, or a rainbow crowning their efforts, that we dedicate these playing fields.
And when at last these hard-working souls shall rest from their labors,
we entrust their handiwork to those future generations who like our hardy builders here, understand that
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”