A newly formed soccer club in Lombard wants to play its home games this fall on park district fields, but a park policy against renting soccer fields to outside groups stands in the way.
While the club's founder says the park district is turning down rental money he's willing to pay, the park district says not enough game times are available to allow rentals.
"Our main priority and the priority in our policy is for us to utilize our facilities and fields for the house league soccer program -- our program," said Rick Poole, deputy director of the Lombard Park District. "When available, we would provide the fields to our affiliate group and schools. Rental groups fall down on this list."
As an affiliate program, the Firebirds are the second priority soccer field users, meaning the club can rent the park district's fields at times when they're not in use by park district soccer teams. Under a policy established in 2007, Poole said, soccer field rental no longer is available to nonaffiliated organizations.
"We do not rent to other clubs because we just don't have a lot of soccer fields," said Jan Mills, park board president. "We have to rest the fields."
The parks system has six soccer fields large enough for the teenage Infinity athletes, including two irrigated fields at Sunset Knoll, Poole said. But with 650 players in the park district league, it's difficult to find enough practice and game times.
"Hopefully someday down the road we'll be able to rent fields," Poole said. "But we just don't have a lot of those big field locations to use."
Infinity's founder, Lombard resident Stefano Durdic, said the Firebirds should not need as many hours on the park district's fields this fall because of the 50 former members who left to join his group. He said protecting the Firebirds as the established soccer club in Lombard may be part of the motivation behind the park district's denial of his request to rent fields.
"They're granting all-day permits to the affiliate group, the Firebirds, even though they can't even come close to using all those spots," Durdic said. "It's an artificial restriction."
Durdic said he wants a compromise in which he could rent fields weekly for the three Infinity teams to play games. The teams include mainly Lombard residents, he said, and they would like to stay within the Lilac Village instead of paying field rental fees to other entities.
"We're taking our money and sending it to other park districts and other communities as opposed to keeping it in our town," Durdic said.
After about 10 residents voiced Infinity's concerns at a park board meeting this week, Mills said the board will place an item on its August meeting agenda that could address the situation. The board will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23.