The Peach Belt Conference announced last week that its men's and women's soccer championships will be held at Blanchard Woods Park.
The semifinal matches will be played Nov. 7, and the finals will be Nov. 9. Columbia County recreation manager Charlie Beale estimates the economic impact of the conference tournament to be around $350,000.
"This is one of the best soccer complexes in the country, and we are thrilled to welcome the Peach Belt to Columbia County," Beale said.
Soccer coaches in the Peach Belt Conference have pushed for a neutral location for a long time, conference Commissioner David Brunk said. Tournament games had previously been held at the home field of the higher seed.
Teams will now converge on Blanchard Woods, which held the Peach Belt's cross country championship after the park opened in September 2007. The facility could later serve as a national host site, but coaches say it will need a locker room first.
"It's world class," USC Aiken men's soccer coach Ike Ofoje said. "The first time I went I said, 'Wow, I can't believe we have something like this in the area."
Ofoje said the conference had considered Jekyll Island, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla., as possible host sites, but neither made sense because of travel.
"Augusta turned out to be very convenient and cost-effective," he said.
Brunk and Beale met last year to discuss the possibility of using Blanchard Woods. Brunk walked the fields to ensure everything was in top condition.
The commissioner said he would explore moving championships for other sports to neutral locations.
"This is an opportunity to show other conferences what we have to offer," Brunk said.
Lakeside girls, Greenbrier boys cross country teams win at Blanchard Woods
Lakeside girls cross country team won a meet at Blanchard Woods Park on Sept. 4.
Panthers sophomore Anna Bowles finished first and tied the course's girls high school record with a time of 20:19. Teammate and fellow sophomore Katie Townsend finished second in 20:55. Evans senior Elena Hubbard finished third.
Greenbrier won the boys meet.
Wolfpack senior Taylor Snyder finished first in 17:32. Lakeside's Atom Young finished second with a time of 17:57.
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