By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
In 2013, the Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors provided a home to soccer players from 11 different countries, including Brazil, England, Jamaica and South Africa.
In 2014, the King’s Warriors themselves will be looking for a home.
The Summers County-based USL-Premier Development League soccer club, owned and operated by The Nehemiah Group, will no longer play their home matches at either Carter Family Foundation Field or Cline Stadium at the YMCA Youth Sports Complex in Beckley.
“The YMCA did not offer us a contract to use the stadium for the coming year,” King’s Warriors director of media relations Tim Donelli said. “As a result of that, we’ve been exploring other options.”
YMCA of Southern West Virginia CEO Jay Rist insists that the decision to not offer a contract to the King’s Warriors had little to do with the organization itself, but was instead about coming to an agreement with the league.
“A contract would have had to be signed with the USL,” Rist explained. “Some of their requirements wouldn’t have been able to be met.”
While specifics of the contract were not made available, and calls to the USL were not returned, there have been questions raised about the quality of the playing surface on Cline Stadium, where the King’s Warriors began their freshman season, before moving to the smaller Carter Family Foundation Field for their second season, due to the better playing surface.
When Cline Stadium was built, the playing surface was constructed in a similar manner to a football field, with a large crown. Because of that, water tends to run off the field, making it difficult to create a lush grassy playing surface that many leagues require.
Another reason for a contract dispute appears to be the USL’s right to sell advertisement signs around the stadium, which Rist says would put the YMCA’s status as a non-profit into question.
“It goes back to not being able to meet the expectations of the USL,” Rist said. “They would have wanted us to be in compliance with their standards, and we would not be able to do that.”
And when the YMCA and USL were unable to come to an agreement, it came as a major surprise to the King’s Warriors.
“We don’t really know why we weren’t offered a contract,” Donelli said. “We were shocked. I do know that it had nothing to do with money. It’s not that we couldn’t come to a financial agreement, but at this time we do not have a stadium to play in.”
Now the quest for the King’s Warriors’ new home begins, just six months before the start of USL-PDL’s season.
“We are exploring all options at this time,” Donelli said. “The team will stay in the region. We will not be leaving the state or the area. We are the Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors for a reason, but at this time we cannot announce anything official as to where we will be playing.”
Sources close to the situation have stated that the likely home for the upcoming season will be the East River Soccer Complex in Bluefield, but Donelli insists that nothing is official at this time and no contracts have been signed.
The King’s Warriors expect to make an announcement before the end of December.
— E-mail: jrollins
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