Concorde Fire Soccer Club has gained control of the Blackburn Park’s multi-use fields in a $10,000-a-year deal signed by the city in May.

The youth soccer club will pay to rehab and maintain the two fields. In exchange, it gains the use of the formerly open-use fields—and the surrounding parking lot, playground and other areas—for much of the day during eight months of the year. The fields will still be available to the public at other times.

Four years ago, Concorde Fire ignited intense controversy with a plan to build a soccer complex on South Johnson Ferry Road. In the wake of that failed plan, the soccer club began exploring public-private partnerships with local parks, then owned by DeKalb County. Only now is that coming to pass in Blackburn.

Brookhaven City Council inked the Blackburn deal on May 26, granting the club the right to start its season there Aug. 1. On June 1, the city announced the closure of the heavily worn fields for renovation.

“Renovations to the fields in their entirety are being completed at the expense of Concorde Fire Soccer Club,” city Parks Manager Gary Schussler said in an email to the Reporter. “The exact cost of the renovations have yet to be determined.”

“Knowing the newly formed partnership, the fields will see an increase in use due to Concorde Fire’s play,” he added.

Attempts to reach representatives of Concorde Fire were not successful.

The soccer club plays at many regional fields, notably including shared fields at the YMCA on Ashford Dunwoody Road near Blackburn.

Concorde Fire already plays some games at Blackburn, but the new deal means far more extensive use of the two fields, located near the intersection of Ashford Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry roads.

The deal gives Concorde Fire “primary right to use and manage” the two fields and their surrounding area for two seasons: Feb. 1 to May 31 and Aug. 1 to Nov. 30. During those periods, the soccer club gets exclusive use Mondays through Fridays, 5-10 p.m.; Saturdays, 1-9 p.m.; and Sundays, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

The soccer club can stage not only games, but also practices, clinics and such promotional events as Opening Day ceremonies.

Concorde Fire will pay all utilities during those times and absorbs capital improvement and field maintenance costs. The contract automatically renews every year, but if the city cancels it within the next two years, it will reimburse the soccer club for a percentage of any improvement costs.

The soccer club also will pay a $10,000 fee each year, but only $5,000 this year, as the contract begins halfway through the year.

— John Ruch