Originally, the school’s soccer squad played on a dirt pitch. As the program developed so did the field of play, and eventually the team was playing on an actual field.
With their own home field, the Day School Trojans went on to win a number of Dixie Conference championships, according to former Cleveland High soccer coach and former Greater Cleveland Soccer Association president Tucker Johnston.
However, when the Day School closed in 1978 its soccer program went with it, and the playing of the ‘beautiful game’ came to a halt in Cleveland.
After a seven-year hiatus a group of parents at Cleveland High School made the push for area soccer to be reborn, and in 1985 a program was kick-started under the direction of Dr. David Chaffin and Johnston.
The next step for area soccer was made in 1992 when the Greater Cleveland Soccer Association was formed to provide soccer to a greater number of local athletes. During the inaugural season 150 children came out to participate in games played at George A. Stuart School and at a field located behind the American Uniform Company.
“Two years later, a committee was formed to raise money and search for a place to build our own complex,” explained Johnston.
The program had grown to around 250 and we needed a single location for everyone. A place was found and enough money had been raised though donations from local corporations, individuals and government agencies that the complex could be built.
“We needed the complex. We were playing in two different locations. We couldn’t get information like storm warnings to parent who might have children playing on both fields. We needed the complex both for logistical and safety reasons,” Johnston stated.
During the Fall of 1995 and the winter and spring of ’96, the complex underwent grading, instalation of irrigation systems and the sprigging of 415 Bermuda grass. After two “growing” seasons the complex finally opened to soccer players in the fall of ’97.
When the complex opened nearly 400 area youth came out for the fall season, and another 400 in the spring.
The next step in the evolution of Cleveland soccer came in 2007 when another group of Cleveland High School and GRCSA parents decided to pursue building a stadium on the largest field. The project was completed in 2008, and now serves as the home of the CHS Blue Raider Soccer programs.
“There are so many people that made this happen. I would be afraid to try to list them all for fear of leaving someone out. But, it was a tremendous effort by the private sector and the city government. That’s what made the dream a reality. I strongly believe soccer is here to stay this time around,” Johnston expressed.
Currently, the complex serves 500 participants in the fall and 400 in the spring who play recreationally. There are also a number of competitive traveling teams that journey throughout the South, representing Cleveland soccer.