BELLVILLE — A soccer team’s ultimate desire is to score a goal — the success that comes when it puts the ball in the back of the net.

Hence the title of a planned three-part magazine devoted to the planned $22 million YMCA of North Central Ohio’s indoor/outdoor sports complex.

It’s called simply, “The Goal.”

The Goal

(Click above and download the free, 16-page magazine.)

Filled with thoughts from local community leaders, coaches, players and more, “The Goal” offers many thoughts on what such a 35-acre complex could mean near the intersection of I-71 and Ohio 97.

It comes early in the fund-raising process for the facility, which was announced in September 2022.

Two additional issues of the magazine are planned. The second will focus on the planned groundbreaking and the third will celebrate the completion of the complex.

Fundraising consultant Chriss Harris has said organizers would like to have $15 million raised by the end of October. That would allow ground to be broken in November and an opening date of February or March in 2025.

North America, including many sites across the United States, will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, attracting even more attention to the sport of soccer.

The Ashland County Community Foundation has pledged $1 million toward the project through the assets of a prominent Richland County family foundation fund. 

The Richland County Foundation has pledged another $500,000 to the effort.

How can you help?

The YMCA of North Central Ohio seeks public and private donations for this $22 million investment in the community. 

For more information or to provide financial support, email:

— Chriss Harris:

— Sara Baker, YMCA Marketing-Development Director:

Contributions for the sports complex can be made to the YMCA in care of Y Sports Complex, 750 Scholl Road, Mansfield, Ohio, 44907.

More information on the YMCA sports complex can also be found on the Y’s website at

The complex will feature a fitness center, arcade, soccer fields, walking track, volleyball, basketball and pickle ball. Outside, there will be seven outdoor soccer fields, pavilions, and a walking trail.

“The new sports complex will be recognized as our Y’s third branch while providing a sports training facility for our area’s children,” YMCA of North Central Ohio CEO Cristen Gilbert wrote in the magazine.

She said the complex, on land donated by local industrialist Jim Gorman, will benefit youth, and the community in general, while providing “Olympic level training, coaching and competition, drawing thousands of players, coaches, families and others to our area.”

“We will also have an outdoor pavilion, play area, restrooms and at least one kiosk with tables and benches near our property’s intersection with the B&O Bike Trail.

“Inside the sports center building will be an arcade, fitness center, apparel, food, and coffee vendors, including Nickel and Bean Coffee of Lexington,” Gilbert wrote.

“The Goal” includes words of support from Bellville Mayor Teri Brenkus, Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero, Lexington Mayor Brian White and Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker.

Brenkus said she recalled as a young mother driving her children out of the area to participate in sports.

“Every winter we drove back and forth to the indoor arena in Lodi so the kids could play soccer. There were no hotels nearby, so we had to drive back home after the games.

“(That Lodi sports center) was always packed, and I constantly worried about the traffic while keeping one eye on the weather,” Brenkus wrote.

Developers are considering the site for housing, retail, restaurants and hotels. Brenkus said she knows infrastructure work is needed, including roads to accommodate more traffic.

“We are already working with engineers to redesign the traffic flow. By the time the YMCA sports complex is open, the added challenges will already have been addressed,” Brenkus wrote.

Bill LaFayette, owner of Regionomics, LLC of Columbus, studied the economic and local tax impacts of the proposed sports facility and related visitor activities.

He found the project would benefit Richland County by increasing economic activity and income and sustaining employment. He said:

• The construction will generate direct, indirect, and induced output (from production and spending) of $32.9 million in Richland County. Household and business earnings are expected to total $10 million, and 170 jobs in the county will be sustained. These impacts end when the construction ends.

• LaFayette believes operating and visitor spending impacts, which will continue indefinitely, will include the following: Total annual output will increase by $8.2 million and 100 jobs will be created or sustained.

In addition, during construction and full operations, this project will also increase municipal and county income, sales, and lodging tax revenues.

Vero said the complex would be a major investment in local families and communities.

“We’ve heard from residents for years that this type of facility would be an asset to our communities. We are fortunate that the YMCA has made the investment of time, money, and the enormous effort to make this happen,” Vero said.

Lee Tasseff, president of Destination Mansfield-Richland County, said the complex will result in regional growth and opportunity.

“People using the Y sports complex are going to require food, gas, shopping, and, in some cases, hotel accommodations. This sports complex can be an introduction to all the things we have to offer in our area.”

Tasseff said he believes the facility will help fuel growth in the southern part of the county over the next few years, especially as the Columbus market continues to move north.

“It certainly won’t be the last new project near that I-71 exit,” he wrote. “This project is a healthy sign of community growth. It can only add to the number of people looking for financial and personal investment here.”

Several prominent area soccer coaches wrote segments for the magazine, including former Clear Fork High School All-American Deijah Swihart, currently an assistant coach for the Ashland University’s women’s team.

“The YMCA sports complex will give our students a chance to play year-round while bringing more players, more coaches, more competition and more attention to the sport.

“Once the Y starts to organize big tournaments, it could draw in college coaches to recruit. All of it right at our doorstep,” Swihart wrote.

“I’m a product of the Y,” she said.

Bryan DeBolt, the boys’ soccer coach at Mansfield Senior High School, said the complex will be a year-round boost for local children.

“It is really challenging to keep kids engaged through the winter. Some will pick up other sports to stay in condition, but a lot do not,” he wrote.

“Many kids come to play soccer through the Appleseed Youth Soccer Association and it takes the efforts of a crew of supportive coaches to keep the kids together and the programs going.

“Currently, the closest indoor soccer facility is one hour away. That kind of transportation requirement can be insurmountable for some kids,” DeBolt wrote.

“Participating in sports is an important teaching tool to help young people understand and develop personal accountability, respect for their community and teammates, and their own skills.

“I tell my players, ‘If we leave the field today learning nothing but soccer, we’ve wasted our time.’ I’m trying to help these young boys become young men, the best young men they can be.”

Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership. Learn more about Newsroom Partnerships.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when...

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