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Soccer fields bring them in from other side of world

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Kai Zhang, a translator for a contingency of Chinese sports administrators, stands beside Bob Maynes, Vice President of the Virginia Youth Soccer Association, repeating his description of Spotsylvania County’s Soccer SportsPlex on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. (GRIFFIN MOORES / THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

A delegation from China dropped by Spotsylvania County’s new soccer “SportsPlex” on Thursday—a visit that may be a sign of things to come for the multimillion-dollar outdoor facility.

The Spotsylvania-based Virginia Youth Soccer Association, or VYSA, plans to eventually host international youth tournaments at the site at the intersection of Routes 2 and 17 and the U.S. 17 Bypass, said organization Vice President Bob Maynes.

“That will certainly be one of the things we do,” he said. “There could easily be more than one” international tournament every year.

A group of Chinese sports administrators visiting Spotsylvania County’s Soccer SportsPlex take photos of each other in front of the Virginia Youth Soccer Association offices on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. (GRIFFIN MOORES / THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

The Spotsylvania County government and the state soccer association hosted the Chinese delegation at the request of the Sino–Canada Technology Exchange Center. The center, which sets up overseas visits for Chinese government officials, found out about the VYSA through a simple Internet search, Maynes said.

The 21-member delegation included sports administrators for provinces in China. The group has already been to California, and its next stop on the three-week visit is New York, an interpreter for the delegation said.

Supervisor Gary Skinner, whose Lee Hill District includes the soccer complex, said the visit further validates the partnership between the county, the soccer organizations and others.

A developer, Spotsylvania-based Tricord Cos., donated land for the fields and Spotsylvania provided water, sewer and electrical service.

“I hope more countries come over” to visit, said Skinner, whom Maynes credited with making the complex a reality.

Right now, the outdoor soccer complex has seven Bermuda grass fields owned by the Fredericksburg Area Soccer Association. Officials had a grand-opening celebration last month.

The VYSA is scheduled to build another nine fields, with some of them set to be finished next year.

With 140,000 players, it is the fifth-largest state soccer association in the country, Maynes said.

Before their tour, the Chinese group received presentations from Maynes, Skinner and other local government officials, including the county director of parks and recreation. Some members of the delegation held camcorders and others took pictures with their smartphones as an interpreter translated.

Maynes told them that his organization primarily serves what he calls “recreation players,” those who will never compete at an elite level.

“We feel this part of our mission is absolutely critical,” he said. “Without it, we would not be serving all of the children in our community.”

Sun Baoli, who holds a position with Beijing Sport University, said she was impressed with what she saw and heard about sports in the county. The local government treats sports as a character builder and not just competition, she said.

“It’s a very effective system,” Baoli said through an interpreter. “It’s very good for development of the communities.”

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402