The Northern Mariana Islands Football Association approached the Marianas Visitors Authority yesterday for possible assistance in the funding of the construction of the NMI Soccer Training complex in Koblerville that is intended to be the home and training ground for soccer enthusiasts in the CNMI.
The project was presented to the board of the MVA yesterday by Ross Zapanta, general secretary of the NMIFA. The complex will be built on public land.
“As the sole officiating organizer and governing body of soccer in the CNMI, which have men’s, women’s, youth, and masters teams, the project is very important to NMIFA and the CNMI government because the completion will redound to the benefit of the CNMI community,” he said.
“Our main focus is the youth in the CNMI and ultimately the health of our community,” he added.
Currently, the NMIFA has no football facility that they can call their own. They utilize the football fields in different public schools to conduct their programs and activities. Schools are being adopted by the teams of the NMIFA as their home for their training.
“Almost all public schools are playing venues of the NMIFA. Seven out nine of these schools actually have baseball fields and we are sharing the fields with the baseball teams,” Zapanta said.
“Principal leagues are held at Hopwood Middle School. Every Saturday, the men’s team and the youth team use the San Antonio and Koblerville elementary schools,” he added.
According to him, the Koblerville complex is designed to be used for international competitions, a place where local teams would have the same tools as their competitors. The facility will have better lighting, better grass for the safety of players, and proper seats for players and spectators. It is touted as a means to improve the playing level of the athletes and promote the sport to local players as well as the community.
“The complex will have one regular-sized soccer field, together with a building or stadium. The field will be covered with artificial turf that proven to be durable and easy to maintain. It is going to be covered with lighting so that league [games] and practices can be held in the evenings,” he said.
Zapanta said they have four sources of funding so far: NMIFA members, the CNMI community, private foundations, and non-profit funders (main source). “And we intend to ask the support of public agencies such as MVA,” he added.
“To cut costs, the project was divided into two phases,” Zapanta said.
Phase 1 involves installation of the artificial grass turf of 80 x 120 yards, which is projected to be done on Dec. 15, with under drainage, team benches with clear covers on the side, and lighting.
Overall, phase 1 is expected to be finished by March 2018.
“Phase 2 involves construction of the building that will have the NMIFA offices and training rooms for coaches and teams, and parking lot.”
“Phase 1 will cost $2.5 million and NMFA currently has $1.5 million from private donors. The balance is what we are working on,” he said.
MVA board chair Gloria Cavanagh said the board will study and see how MVA can help.
MVA managing director Chris Concepcion said that sports tourism is a very important part of MVA’s marketing efforts to promote the CNMI as a healthy destination for families and individuals.
“We are excited about NMIFA’s project to build the soccer complex. We do encourage them to seek funding like what [the Northern Marianas Sports Association] did for the track and field in Oleai when they secured almost a million [dollars] from the Northern Marianas Housing Corp.,” said Concepcion.”
“The MVA will see how we can support this project as $1.6 million was cut from our budget so we will have to review all our projects. We will go back to this at some time and see what we can provide to support the project,” he added.