By Jason Mack/Laredo Heat SC
With the groundbreaking Wednesday, May 4 for its new six-acre soccer complex, the Laredo Heat Soccer Club took a substantial step forward in its mission to provide opportunities for the youth of the community to grow through participation in the sport. It also progressed in its mission to promote the city with the site planned as the future home of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) team.
“Laredo is already doing great things with soccer, but the potential for exponential growth is immense,” Laredo Heat SC President and co-owner Shashi Vaswani said. “We see this project as a way to jumpstart that growth while also providing significant boosts to the city in terms of aesthetics, functionality, tourism, and more.”
Being constructed across Bob Bullock Loop from the Laredo International Airport, the Laredo Heat Soccer Complex is run by the Laredo Heat Youth Academy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The project is being undertaken in three phases. Phase 1 has a projected completion date of Fall 2022. It features the construction of Laredo’s first full-size, soccer-specific turf field which adheres to strict FIFA certification standards. The full-size field and a mini pitch for youth games. Both are professionally lighted by Musco Lighting and use Xtreme Turf, Brock SP17 shock pad, and organic BrockFILL.
Phase 2 is projected to be completed in 2023. It features the addition of locker rooms, restrooms, and a second mini pitch.
Phase 3 has a tentative completion date of 2023 or 2024 pending the raising of additional funds through sponsorships, naming rights, donations and other venues. It features the addition of a team building and grandstands along with an extension of the parking lot.
The grandstands will feature seating for 700 people with the option to expand in the future, and the team will continue having field-level VIP access for additional capacity. Once Phase 3 is completed, the facility will serve as the home field for the Heat’s NPSL team.
“Shashi has always wanted to build fields for the youth,” Laredo Heat SC Vice President and co-owner Priya Vaswani said. “As long as I can remember, this is something he has dreamed about, and now to see it come to fruition is amazing. As a wife, to watch my husband’s dream start to come true is such a wonderful thing. It is also exciting to know all the opportunities this complex will provide for the youth.”
Act Global’s Xtreme Turf exceeds FIFA’s high standards for quality, performance and safety as the world-class turf is rigorously tested for durability, shock absorption, foot stability, rotational traction, ball roll, and ball rebound. Act Global is a FIFA Quality Licensee accredited with FIFA Quality Pro certification, and it has supplied turf for over 250 FIFA-certified installations around the globe, including Montreal Olympic Stadium in Canada which hosted Women’s World Cup matches in 2015. It has installed several multi-sport fields around Texas, but Laredo will feature its first soccer-specific turf in the state.
“This system was designed to optimize safety and performance for world-class soccer while providing the latest technology in durability and heat reduction,” Act Global said in a statement. “Durability is addressed through in-depth wear and UV testing, so the Laredo Heat Soccer Complex also addresses the demands of heavy competition, training and tournament use. The Laredo Heat not only invested in world-class turf, they also selected the latest organic infill and shock pad combination to keep the players cooler and better protected.”
The Brock SP17 shock pad provides a safety layer under the turf and keeps the surface firm and fast while still absorbing impacts. Brock does rigorous testing for player safety including head, body, and foot firmness impact tests. The shock pads feature fast drainage and a unique impact profile ideal for artificial turf thanks to a patented material using polypropylene with a micro-coating binder.
The BrockFILL organic infill is engineered for optimal safety and performance as it reduces temperature as much as 50 degrees and creates a more grass-like playing surface. Along with being significantly cooler than fields featuring crumb rubber, BrockFILL also has lower thermal conductivity which reduces heat transmission through shoes and skin. Studies have shown BrockFILL helps minimize lower-body injuries by having similar traction to high-quality natural turfs and featuring less foot movement and shorter cleat release time compared to crumb rubber.
“One of the major aspects of Brock that sets us apart from the competition is our dedication to a scientific approach,” Brock said in a statement. “We know our products are the best because they have been tested thoroughly and regularly. We stand behind our research wholeheartedly.”
With the quality of the facility, the Heat are aiming to attract local, regional and international tournaments. Along with increasing the opportunities for athletes to play locally, it would attract teams from other cities and boost Laredo tourism. The club will also seek out opportunities such as hosting championship matches for local adult leagues.
Having a FIFA-certified field will also allow for the possibility of inviting collegiate, professional, and international teams to play at the facility. The Heat have previously hosted clubs such as the America, Chivas, Rayados, and Tigres Sub 20 squads, which included hosting Javier “Chicharito” Hernández with Chivas. The facility would allow ample opportunities to host similar events while providing local entertainment, increasing the prestige and quality of life of the city, and boosting tourism.
“We always want Laredo to come out ahead,” Shashi Vaswani said. “From the youth to the professional ranks, this facility will be a great tool for attracting teams to visit the city, and that will in turn boost the city’s reputation and its tourism. It always comes back to building up the community.”
Even after the completion of the Laredo Heat Soccer Complex, the club intends to continue teaming up with Texas A&M International University to offer an ever greater number of opportunities for young athletes to get on the field and progress.
“TAMIU has been an invaluable partner for serving our youth, and it has contributed greatly to our growth,” Shashi Vaswani said. “The ability to utilize TAMIU’s excellent facilities along with the Laredo Heat Soccer Complex will elevate the academy to a different level and will be reflected in the growth we will see from our already immensely talented youth players.”
The Laredo Heat’s NPSL team begins its summer season on the road May 13 in San Antonio before returning home for a stretch of three games in seven days. The Heat host FC Brownsville in their home opener on Wednesday, May 18 followed by matches on Saturday, May 21 and Tuesday, May 24.
The Heat play their home matches at 8:00 pm at the TAMIU Soccer Complex. Tickets are $5 for general admission and $20 for VIP access. Children 12 and under get in free.
Please visit laredoheatsc.com and follow @laredoheatsc on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest news. Any youth players interested in joining the academy can visit laredoheatscyouth.com for more information.
Photos Courtesy of Laredo Heat SC