DeKalb County officials and representatives of a local soccer club are working together to develop new soccer fields in a north DeKalb park instead of at a controversial site on Johnson Ferry Road.
Bob Lundsten, chief of staff for Commissioner Elaine Boyer, said he is discussing with the Concorde Fire Soccer Club the feasibility of building soccer fields on existing county park land in north DeKalb.
Lundsten said over the next two weeks, county and soccer officials will meet to discuss the costs and impacts of the potential partnership. A decision on where the fields would be has not been made, but Lundsten said there are a few north DeKalb parks up for discussion.
On Aug. 29, Concorde Fire withdrew its application for a special land use permit to build a soccer complex on Johnson Ferry Road. The withdrawal came after months of discord with area residents who did not want the soccer fields near their neighborhoods.
“In the mean time one of the things we discovered is there is a severe shortage of soccer fields (in North DeKalb),” Lundsten said. “We kind of floated the question, what if Concorde took the money they were going to use to purchase and develop fields and put that money toward a public-private partnership for the construction and development of fields in partnership with DeKalb County? Everybody kind of went, ‘That makes sense.’”
He said the arrangement would benefit Concorde Fire and DeKalb County. The soccer club would get the additional fields it needs, while the county would gain a soccer facility that would be maintained by Concorde – a big cost savings for the county, Lundsten said.
“From fire and rubble of Concorde Fire and Johnson Ferry we can end up with something positive that makes the fight worthwhile,” Lundsten said. “All the stars are in alignment. It looks like a good idea. Now we’ve just got to figure out how to do it.”
Larry Lord, president of Concorde Fire, said the organization decided to change direction because the tension with Brookhaven residents became too much.
“We debated it, but decided it was not in the best interest of the club to continue to pursue it,” Lord said of the Johnson Ferry Road property. “The neighbors were not receptive at all to even compromise. We took that as a sign that we need to move on somewhere else.”
The Concorde Fire Soccer Club had hoped to build a $1.5 million soccer facility on 12 acres at 1611 South Johnson Ferry Road. The facility was to include three fields, a clubhouse and 150 parking spaces.
Fay Ann Sherris, a Fielding Park Court resident who has been a vocal opponent of the soccer complex, said she was relieved to hear about the withdrawal. “We were very pleased,” Sherris said. “It seemed to make the most sense … for all parties involved.”
But Sherris said the experience has been positive for the community overall.
“We’ve become a very united community. It’s just been phenomenal to see the different neighborhoods become in communication with each other. It makes me value where I live even more,” Sherris said. “Everybody was very passionate, this was a very personal battle. We plan to stay united for benefit of our neighborhoods.”