Through a collaborative partnership between the City of Athens and Ohio University, the Athens football community will be able to move its program from the swampy field behind East State Street to land owned by the University of Athens. Ohio next to the city’s West State Street Park.
Ohio University owns the golf driving range east of West State Street Park. While it will retain the driving range for golfers, the space between the golf course and the University’s innovation and research facilities will serve as the new soccer field.
“The City of Athens is thrilled with the opportunity presented by this new partnership,” said Andy Stone, Director of Security Services for the City of Athens. “The West State Street Park complex is a popular recreation area serving large swaths of the city, college and greater area.”
The relocation of the pitch follows the insistence of the local football community, who have become frustrated with the constant flooding and poor turf conditions of the old pitch on East State Street. A short-term agreement was reached in May which will run until the end of the year. After that, the city and the University will have a long-term land use agreement.
“Adding soccer on good turf is a logical additional use in this area, which benefits the University and the community. It really is a win-win partnership,” Stone said.
Thanks to the collaboration between the City and the University, golfers and soccer players will cohabit by sharing a large green space conducive to their respective sports and will eventually be separated by nets. Meanwhile, with no football players on East State Street, the City of Athens will retain the land for land improvements.
“Supporting recreational activities across our community benefits everyone, including our students,” said Mark Ferguson, Executive Director of Wellness and Recreation. He said the new arrangement and planned improvements will maintain the driving range and add quality field space for students and the community to enjoy while utilizing underutilized space.
Katherine Ann Jordan, director of the Athens Department of Arts, Parks and Recreation, worked alongside the Athens Ohio Soccer Organization to identify ways the city can support its soccer community. She also participated in conversations with Ohio University
“I am incredibly excited to see all of our hard work come to fruition. This is a great example of how the City of Athens and Ohio University are working together to meet the needs of our community,” a- she said, “Together, we can continue to create new and better opportunities for our entire community.”
“It’s exciting to see the City of Athens and Ohio University working together to build a permanent home for soccer in Athens,” said Shauna Switzer of the Athens Ohio Soccer Organization. “While there is still much to do for the new facility, we look forward to a future where the West State Street location becomes a true recreational and community sports center for our region.”
She said soccer is a multi-generational sport that attracts players of all ages and skill levels from Southern Ohio to play in Athens. Stone also noted that the park attracts all kinds of recreators, from kids playing baseball and softball, to dog walkers and cyclists.
“Great things happen when we work together,” Switzer said.
The Ohio University and the City of Athens have a history of working together to serve both OHIO students and the Athens community.
“The City of Athens and Ohio University have a long history of working closely together to improve our shared communities,” said Shawna Wolfe, associate vice president of university planning. “Part of this is due to our ability to sit down together, share and discuss our needs understanding that we are best when we care together.”
In 2018, Ohio University and the City of Athens won the Larry Abernathy Award for Promoting a Sense of Place from the International Town & Gown Association. Both were recognized for their cooperation in promoting a sense of belonging for students, community members and visitors to Athens and OHIO. Recognized projects include the Ridges Framework Plan, the Richland Avenue Pedestrian Pathway, East State Street improvements, and the Bobcat Pass program.