Soccer in Park City is about to get extreme
The Park Record
Softball and baseball had their turns — now it’s time for soccer. Next weekend, Aug. 4-6, Park City Soccer Club will host the 13th annual Park City Extreme Cup, a youth soccer tournament that draws nearly 500 teams from around the Western United States. Shelley Gillwald, executive director of the Park City Soccer Club and the tournament’s director, said in the last few years the event has grown by leaps and bounds.
“We ran out of fields for the demand for teams who wanted to participate,” she said. “So four years ago we expanded into Heber. And a couple of years before that we’d expanded into Oakley, too. There’s a club out there, the South Summit Soccer Club, that runs that venue for us during the tournament. The Heber Valley Soccer Club, they operate four venues.
“In all, we have 43 fields at 14 venues for this tournament.”
Gillwald said 479 teams are participating this year, or about 8,500 kids age 8-19. Counting families, she said, that equates to about 30,000 people in town for the weekend. With that many people spread across 14 venues, preparation is key.
“We work year-round on this tournament,” she said. “There is an organizing committee of close to 20 people who manage the logistics of this event. We have an incredible volunteer force. Every venue has two coordinators, at least one if not two field marshals, and a medical staff. And they are all visible in official shirts. They’re easy to find.”
Gillwald said the teams are separated into age groups, and then placed in brackets based on their skill level. In all, there are 65 tournament brackets in the event.
“Take our U13 boys as an example,” she said. “There are five brackets in that age group, from platinum down to copper. My scheduling and registration team works for months researching every team that has applied. The minute a team applies they go into a database and we start figuring out where this team belongs in that age bracket. So we had 48 teams apply in the U13 and we researched and ranked every one of them.”
The goal, she said, is to make the Extreme Cup an enjoyable experience for kids of all skill levels.
“Our platinum and gold brackets are highly competitive teams. We have state champions, we have teams that are going to nationals,” she said. “But at the same time, it’s equally important to us to provide something for teams of all levels. So whether it’s our bronze or our copper divisions, those families still want to come and have a great tournament experience and we make sure their brackets are evenly matched, as well. We work really hard so that a team doesn’t show up and get blown out 9-0.”
In addition to being a fun weekend of soccer, the Extreme Cup also serves as a valuable fundraiser for the Park City Soccer Club. It helps to keep fees reasonable, and also provides a scholarship fund to assist kids who would not otherwise be able to participate.
“The tournament helps us to give away $35-40,000 a year in scholarships,” Gillwald said. “And we haven’t raised our fees in a number of years, in part because of the Extreme Cup.”
The event is an economic driver for Park City — Gillwald said the club’s analysis shows that participants’ families average almost three nights’ stay in the area. Even clubs coming up from Salt Lake City are staying in town.
“They’re treating it like a staycation for the family,” she said.
But an event that brings in tens of thousands of people also has a significant carbon footprint, and Gillwald said the club began taking steps to address that last year. They stopped providing printed programs, instead directing people to an app that had all the pertinent information like scheduling, scoring and results. By doing that, she said, they saved over 1 million printed pages.
“We are trying very hard to be a role model in developing a sustainable model for sporting events,” Gillwald said. “We work closely with the folks at Recycle Utah and the city’s sustainability program. This year, for the first time, we will not be selling bottled water at any of our venues. We have water stations, and we’re selling aluminum water bottles at a very affordable price so folks can reuse them.
“We’re hoping to make a big impact and a big statement by not selling plastic water bottles.”
Steele DeWald has his life in Park City down to a routine. After some strange encounters in his 20s, he’s OK with the mundane.