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posted: 3/15/2012 11:00 PM

Arlington Heights parks, soccer business have a deal

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An agreement that means soccer coaches can work with the same Arlington Heights Park District traveling teams that they trained last fall has been reached between the Arlington Heights Park District and Elite Soccer.

About 200 soccer parents crowded into a meeting of the Arlington Heights park board earlier this week, upset over the severing of a contract between the district and Elite Soccer, which has provided coaches for many of the district's traveling teams.

Full details have not been released, but under the terms of the agreement, last fall's coaches will be offered contracts to coach the same teams this spring, said Steve Scholten, executive director of the park district. Coaches were employees of Elite Soccer last fall and will be hired by the park district this spring.

A joint statement will be issued Friday morning.

The park district's position was that Elite Soccer's decision to set up a private soccer club with tryouts this spring meant a breach of the contract.

Elite wanted the park district to build an indoor soccer facility as well as the artificial outdoor field that is part of the plans for park center improvements under a bond issue on Tuesday's ballot, Scholten said, and the company said it would help with fundraising.

Mike Steele, co-founder of Elite, said the new facilities were a concept, not an ultimatum.

"On Dec. 8 they (Elite) propose a significant capital investment indoors and outdoors, and we say we don't have the capability of doing that, and the next thing we hear they have a contract with (Northwest Suburban High School) District 214 to build an artificial turf at Rolling Meadows High School on Feb. 3," said Scholten.

Parents said their first concern is the youngsters, and not even the fees they have already paid Elite, which the park district already committed to try to save.

"The park district is upset that Elite will take all of these players," said Tony Diviesti, who said he had been a member of the Soccer Advisory Committee on behalf of Elite.

"We get that, but don't put the kids in the middle. Deal with Elite on the side and let the kids finish the season."

Parents are upset because these are the coaches the youngsters have grown to like and trust over the years. The spring season, which is almost under way, is made up of the same teams as this past fall, said Diviesti and Tony Schiller, a parent who created a Facebook page about the issue over the weekend.

The two also said the park district does not have all the new coaches in place, and parents aren't happy that they weren't consulted, nor do they know much about the new coaches.

Scholten said the park district collects feedback from participants about vendors such as coaches or yoga or dance instructors, "but when there's a contractor issue that needs to be resolved it's not the type of thing we generally open up for public debate."

The park district has hired Elite for 14 years for various programs, and the company has provided coaches for the Academy traveling program for about six years.

About 750 youngsters are on the Arlington Heights Park District's traveling soccer teams, with 450 coached by Elite employees and the remainder coached by volunteers with the assistance of Elite trainers.

Many of the Elite coaches are teachers, said Steele.

"They see soccer as a means to youth development, not a means to a professional soccer contract," Steele said.

Soccer is the Arlington Heights Park District's most popular sport, according to its website.

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