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School district partners with Operation Pitch Invasion to build additional soccer facilities

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Two new futsal courts will be added to the high school grounds next to the tennis courts near the beginning of the school year.With the high-profile flurry of construction activity taking place at the Pat Cary Track & Field Facility at Woodburn High School over the past six months, it's easy to overlook a small patch of land near the school's tennis courts has been steadily terraformed during the summer.

Come this fall, that pad of gravel will be the site of two new futsal courts, courtesy of the Woodburn School District's partnership with the Portland Timbers and Operation Pitch Invasion.

A five-on-five variant of soccer, futsal is a popular sport played on a hard, artificial court roughly the size of a basketball court; though the length of the pitch can vary in size from location to location.

Woodburn's new courts were an unexpected outcome from inaugural Flavor de Futbol tournament held primarily at the high school in July. As organizers were seeking sponsors for the event, Chamber of Commerce President Melinda Avila reached out to the Timbers, who were unable to sponsor the tournament, but sent representatives out to tour the facilities with the district's Director of Human Resources Casey Woolley.

"Our schools are really like community hubs," Woolley said. "If we can bring these types of facilities that lead to activities that our communities, families and students don't have to leave to participate in, it just strengthens our community and gives increased access and opportunities for our families to participate."

Although the Timbers have contributed to more than 16 soccer fields and futsal courts in the Portland community since 2011, they have never come as far south as Woodburn.

With the community's rich and thriving history with the sport, the organization was eager to contribute to the soccer culture, facilitating a deal that brings a pair of courts estimated at $100,000 in value to the high school.

"This is just another incredible asset to that field, to that campus," Avila said. "We were telling them the stories of what the schools look like on the weekends. They knew this community was so worth the investment."

"It's kind of the thing I keep saying to people: Why not in Woodburn?" Woolley said.

Expected to be completed around the opening of the 2019-20 school year, the futsal courts will be another tool available as part of the school's physical education curriculum, while serving the community outside of school hours.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - The futsal court donation, courtesy of the Portland Timbers and Operation Pitch Invasion, is an estimated $100,000 value."We want people to have opportunities to participate and play on it," Woolley said, noting it brings one more asset to the growing facilities at Woodburn High School. "There's many things that the community members can do if you bring a family there. Tennis courts, track, field, futsal courts."

It's the continued approach that Woolley, Avila, Woodburn Athletic Director Chad Waples, the Woodburn School Board and countless others have taken to the school district. With athletics being such a key component to the community and the school district largely acting as a hub to its students and their families, why not invest in something that can be used by the community and bring people to the city.

"I'm hoping that this is just the starting point," Woolley said. "We'll have to play it by ear and see how popular it is. See what other avenues for partnerships that we can strike up."

The Pat Cary complex has seen an incredible amount of investment recently, including a new scoreboard courtesy of the Woodburn Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, new weight room facility on the east side of the field, the new synthetic turf playing surface for the football and soccer teams, track resurfacing, fencing, the futsal courts and more.

School officials and organizers envision the complex continuing to grow as community investment grows with it, turning the facilities into a regional hub for athletics that brings sports tourism to Woodburn while acting as multi-use resource for community members to take advantage of with their families.

"They have been creating the vision for so long, and they knew it was a possibility, and all of a sudden, all of this is coming together," Avila said. "I do really think there's visionaries, and everybody coming together at the right time. It really is happening."

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