NEW RICHMOND, Ohio -- For the past 15 years, Duke Energy has donated land in New Richmond adjacent to its Beckjord power plant for use by local soccer teams. Now, as Duke prepares the plant for decommission, it says it needs that land back.
Beckjord Fields have been home to the New Richmond Soccer Association since the mid-1990s. The NRSA is now working hard to find a new home and has started a GoFundMe page.
“The New Richmond Soccer Association has been a great partner for many years, and a very responsible steward of our property,” said Duke representative Lee Freedman. “The organization does important work. Many of our employees and retirees have fond memories of watching their children play on these fields, and develop a love of soccer.”
The Beckjord plant, which powered the region for nearly 60 years, was retired in August 2014. Since then, Duke officials said they have been planning a years-long process to decommission the retired generating units and return the site’s footprint to ground level.
“As it currently stands, the land that’s home to the soccer fields will be needed as a staging area for heavy machinery and other equipment that we’ll use to decommission the power plant,” said Freedman. “This is why, unfortunately, we’re not able to renew the lease with the soccer association.”
Last February, Duke informed the New Richmond Soccer Association that it would have until February 2018 to find a new home field.
“It has been an exhaustive search by several of the board members for well over a year,” said NRSA president Dale Younts, who has petitioned Duke Energy for support in the form of a lease extension, monetary contributions and/or help locating a nearby field for lease.
Duke declined those requests, but has agreed to allow the NRSA to keep its storage buildings on the Beckjord property for the time being.
“This will certainly save the organization a great deal of money in terms of the costs to move or demolish the structures,” said Freedman.
Meanwhile, the NRSA has reached an agreement with the neighboring city of Moscow to lease land between Zimmer -- another power plant -- and the River Valley Community Center for $1 per year for five years, with an option to renew for another five years after that.
“They don’t see a reason they wouldn’t renew beyond that 10-year mark,” said Younts.
But in order to ready the fields for team use, the NRSA must raise $60,000 for gravel, geotextiles, culverts and other construction costs. So far, the association has raised approximately $15,000 toward that sum and has begun to seek community donations for the rest.
If the league can’t secure funding by the lease-end date, it will be forced to suspend practice indefinitely and play as visitors on another team’s home field. The league’s insurance only covers fields approved by the Clermont Central Soccer Association, so any team that practices elsewhere would be doing so at their own risk, Younts explained.
“This is certainly not something that a parent who volunteers to coach should have to worry about,” said Younts.
The NRSA serves roughly 200 local families, with teams made up of players between the ages of four and 14. The only paid participants are referees -- local teens between the ages of 13 and 16 -- who receive $15 to $25 per game.
Younts said the NRSA will accept donations of materials and time, in addition to monetary contributions.
“We need the communities to help get the land in Moscow prepared,” Younts said. “Our cost would drop drastically if geotextiles, gravel and other supplies were donated.”
To learn more about the NRSA or to find out how you can help, visit the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/newrichmondsoccer.