Printed on: October 04, 2012

Got a Light?

Games under lights add big-game feel to prep soccer

By Michael Lycklama
mlycklama@postregister.com

The light stands at the two newest fields at Idaho Falls Soccer Complex switch on about 10 minutes before kickoff. And as they buzz while they warm up, the buzz builds in the crowd.

Both the Idaho Falls and Skyline high school boys and girls soccer teams started playing their games under the lights at the soccer complex this season. And as the regular season draws to a close, the atmosphere has drawn nothing but rave reviews.

Crowds are larger because of the later kickoffs. Instead of starting at 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon, all games under the lights kick off at 7 p.m., allowing parents and fans to work a full day before heading out to the game.

The later start times also allow students a full day of school. Dean Cook, the president of the Bonneville Youth Soccer League, which spearheaded fundraising for the facility, coached the Idaho Falls girls program for 17 years before stepping down before this season. When his team hosted 4 p.m. games, he wanted his players at the field by 3 p.m., which meant getting out of school at 2:30 and missing their last period.

"If you consider you have eight home games a season, and if your last period is AP Calculus, you may not want to miss it eight times," Cook said.

The lights also add a marquee feel to the game. Instead of sparsely attended afternoon games at the wide open complex, games under the lights come with a prime-time feel, Skyline boys soccer coach Byraun Moretz said.

"Anything under the lights is going to increase the adrenaline of any player," Moretz said. "I used to love to play under the lights when I played. It's a night game, you get a little moisture on the ground, it's perfect. It's just going to increase soccer here 100 fold."

The growth of soccer in Idaho Falls was the main reason for the expanded facility. In addition to the two lighted fields, the expansion of the soccer complex added two more fields, giving the complex at total of 12 fields.

Cook said adding more fields will help the city draw larger tournaments, such as the Idaho State Cup. The state club championship draws 100 teams from around the state, which would provide a boost for area restaurants and hotels.

Before the addition of four fields, Hillcrest coach boys soccer coach Bryan Johnston said it was tough to find a field for a pickup game. Even with the new fields, it still is.

"Try and find a patch of grass on any Saturday," Johnston said. "And when it's good weather, any day. Wherever there is a goal, it's going to be being used."

Of course, area soccer teams have played under the lights for years. The twice-annual Skyline-Idaho Falls and Bonneville-Hillcrest matchups are held at the school's football stadiums. And Madison has moved its boys and girls soccer games to the football stadium.

But the new soccer fields at the complex are exactly that -- soccer fields. The field isn't too narrow, it isn't crowned and corner kicks aren't taken out of long-jump pits.

They are fields built specifically for a sport whose buzz is growing faster than any other in eastern Idaho.

"We'll never match football. That's a given," Moretz said. "But we're going to come darn close as a fall sport. I think it's awesome and I hope we're going to keep playing under the lights."