By Hannah Maier
“Soccer is far and away the most unifying force in our ethnically diverse community. For children, teens and adults, the soccer pitch is where we see barriers being broken down. This spectacular new field will only accelerate the process.” – Leadville High School Coach Makali Beck
Once a booming mining town, Leadville, Colo., attracted people from across the country in search of silver and prosperity during the Colorado Silver Boom in the late 19th century. The city had a population of over 40,000 in 1880, which was the second-most in the state – just behind Denver (United States Census Bureau).
In 2005, the population of Leadville was estimated to have shrunk to 2,821 – nearly a 93 percent decrease.
The decline in mining drove most of the population away and devastated the city’s economy and also left contamination with acids and heavy metals in Leadville’s soil and water. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated former mining areas in the city as Superfund sites – federally designated hazardous waste sites.
Today many – although still not all – of the Superfund sites have been cleaned, but Leadville still toils with being one of the poorest areas in Colorado and is looking for ways to jumpstart its economy. The city has been promoting it historical relevance to encourage tourism and has also been expanding its capacity for outdoor recreation (Lance Armstrong just won the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike cycling race on Saturday, Aug. 15).
This desire to bolster outdoor activity motivated Leadville to apply for a Planning Grant with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, and in 2007, it became one of five such recipients. Clough Harbour & Associates (CHA), the Foundation’s Partner for Soccer Facility Design and Planning Services, played a vital role in the process.
CHA worked with Leadville to help build a field in the city’s Lake County Community Park, which, upon completion, became the highest synthetic turf field in the world.
“Our single-field project is small by most standards, but from day one CHA approached our project with the attitude that it couldn’t be permitted to fail,” said Peter Frykholm, Chair of the Lake County Community Park Project. “And thanks to people like CHA and the Foundation, it hasn’t.
“Receiving a Planning Grant from the US Soccer Foundation was paramount to our project. With plenty of dreams but not a dollar in the bank, the professionally rendered site plan by Clough Harbor & Associates gave our project immediate credibility.”
On Saturday, Aug. 29, Leadville will mark the grand opening of its field in Lake County Community Park at 10 a.m. MDT. The celebration will have a ceremony, community picnic, music and other events.
The opening of this field not only commemorates a new and great place to play soccer, but it symbolizes the efforts of a once-thriving city that is trying to regain its footing. In Frykholm’s words, Leadville is “a small Colorado mining town will take another huge step from Superfund toward super fun.”