The association in charge of the west Enid soccer complex project is launching a fundraising campaign, aiming to reach $3 million in donations to fund additional amenities and upgrades to the planned facility.

More than $6 million is currently available, $1.5 million each from the Allen and McLaughlin families, co-founders of Advance Food Co., and another $3 million from the city of Enid to match their gifts.

To more fully realize the soccer complex’s potential, a total of $9 million to $10 million is needed, Mark Allen said.

The son of Advance Foods founder Paul Allen, Mark has been closely involved with the project since it began.

“There’s still another $3 million that we would love to be able to raise organically in the city,” he said.

“We may do it, we may not. If we are able to reach that, then we will certainly enhance the facility with those monies,” he said, adding that if no additional dollars come in, construction will continue as originally planned.

Enid Sports Association, the nonprofit entity tasked with overseeing construction of the project, as well as the day-to-day tasks of operating the complex once it is complete, will be forming a special committee to handle the capital campaign.

Jessica Nelson, executive director of Enid Sports Association, and Visit Enid director Marcy Jarrett, are taking the lead on fundraising efforts, Allen said.

If the campaign is successful, ESA will pursue construction of a clubhouse, centrally located amid the seven soccer fields, complete with bathrooms, locker rooms, a referee lounge and a concessions area.

Other priorities include upgrading equipment for an already planned playground, installing artificial turf and a scoreboard on the championship field, and installing lighting on all of the fields.

Allen said there’s no deadline to reach their funding goal, and the campaign likely will continue even after the complex opens.

“We’ll have some flexibility to upgrade as we go along,” he said.

The first phase of the campaign will be a lot of one-on-one meetings with individuals interested in making substantial donations to the project, Allen said.

Over time, efforts will broaden and more fundraising avenues will open up.

“The more people we have engaged in this project, the better … we don’t want to limit it to only those who can give large amounts. We want to open it up to everybody,” he said.

Big givers might get their names on the side of the clubhouse or on a scoreboard, but Allen wants to find ways to honor generous gestures of all size, if he can.

Not everyone can finance a building, but lockers cost money too, and benches and bricks.

“This is truly a community complex … and we realize that most people can’t give $6 million, but if somebody can give $100, $200, we’ll figure out ways to recognize them,” he said.

Allen sits on the Enid Sports Association board, along with an attorney, an accountant and some community members. Each seat comes with a three-year term, and he plans to step away when the complex is on steady footing.

“The board can evolve,” he said. “Once the complex is completed, the board makeup should reflect the needs at the time, and I probably don’t need to be involved,” he said, neither does the attorney, nor the accountant.

Community members of different stripe should fill all the board seats, he said.

The ESA board will be modeled after the David Allen Memorial Ballpark Foundation, which is made of representatives from the city of Enid, Enid Public Schools and the nonprofit foundation, he said.

“That’s why the (David Allen Ballpark) has worked so well,” he said. “Everybody’s in the room making decisions together, and it’s a nonprofit organization.”

Current ESA board members are Bob Berry, Pat Donehue, Jarrett, Seth Jenkins, Jon McNaught, Claire Neal, Michael Shuck, Mike Steinke and representatives from the city of Enid, Enid Public Schools and Enid Soccer Club.

All money the soccer complex earns will be reinvested into upkeep, upgrades or to “benefit soccer in Enid,” how the ESA board determines, Allen said.

“The first and foremost financial concern is to make certain the complex has the funds they need to keep it in a condition such as the David Allen Ballpark,” he said. “Then, what is left over from that point should benefit the Enid Soccer Club, so that it goes directly to the kids and the parents and the needs of that sport.”

The soccer fields should, however, bring plenty of cash into the community, he said, if David Allen Memorial Ballpark is any indication.

“It is a very significant amount of money” the park has brought in, he said, “and if the ballpark can do that, soccer can do that four fold.”

The complex is, among many things, a thank you from the Allen and McLaughlin families to Enid, and in particular to the employees of Advance and their families, he said.

“If the city and citizens of Enid hadn’t supported our company in the way they did, we wouldn’t have the money to do this,” he said.

More than 1,000 children play soccer in Enid and surrounding areas, he said, and they deserve good accommodations.

“This is our way of giving back … and hopefully allow those parents that worked for us to enjoy these fields, and to give their kids an opportunity to play somewhere really special.”

There’s no name for the complex yet, but whatever it is, there will be some reference to Advance in it, he said, to commemorate the company’s many years in Enid.

“The Advance name probably, after some time, is going to go away, on buildings, on trucks,” he said. This complex is “what we want the city to remember us for.”

Story provided by Enid News & Eagle

Written by: Mitchell Willetts