PHARR — For a place as crazy about soccer as the Rio Grande Valley, there aren’t actually a ton of formal places to play the game. Jose Antonio Caso, 52, noticed that, and now he’s doing something about it.
Caso, a retired doctor from Reynosa who lives in Mission, is building the Plaza Sports Center at 1101 E. Nolana in Pharr and is planning for it to open in December. The complex covers 20 acres, will feature six reduced-size artificial turf fields (180 feet by 95 feet), a soccer pro shop and a restaurant. Two of the fields will be covered and the other four will be fully lit for night use.
Eventually, Caso hopes to build a regulation-size field for full 11-on-11 games. For now, the fields are for seven-on-seven, a game that’s conducive to players playing simply for fun and also for players looking to learn more technical and on-the-ball skills.
That, Caso said, is the goal for his project. Winning trophies and competing for medals, he said, is secondary to the target of his complex.
He wants people to love the game the way he does. He said he practiced medicine to support his family, but that soccer is his passion.
“I think the sport is a very good tool for education for kids. I think the goal is education for the kids,” Caso said. “Training every day, effort, constants, every day coming to training and the training is inclusive.”
Caso began the project about two years ago and bought the land last year for more than $1 million, though he couldn’t specify the exact amount, and he couldn’t say how much the project is costing, other than to say it’s “very expensive.”
Caso, of course, isn’t the only person who’s hoping for the project to succeed. The Valley is perhaps one of the state’s most soccer-mad areas and is filled with people looking for places to play the game they love.
Gary Hamilton, the director of the McAllen Youth Soccer Association and also the director of the Houston Dynamo Youth Development Program, welcomes the addition of another soccer facility in the area.
There are already places such as the De Leon Soccer Complex in McAllen and Golazo Soccer in Pharr, plus other parks and fields, but more are always welcome. Hamilton said he hadn’t heard about Caso’s project, but embraced it
“It’s good. I think it’s a great thing,” Hamilton said. “I think if all these communities could chip in and start their own complexes it would take a little bit of the pressure off McAllen to start producing them and I think it would enable other cities to hopefully start their own programs because the only real soccer program around is McAllen Youth Soccer Association.”
Brian Sandalow covers sports for The Monitor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (956) 683-4436.
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