Back in the limelight: Gillette to host 6 NCAA tourney games this week
Posted on April 26, 2021
In this Times file photo from Nov. 29, 2012, a linesman watches the action on the field during a U.S. Youth Soccer National League match at Gillette Soccer Complex. The facility will host six NCAA Division men’s and women’s soccer tournament games this week, starting Tuesday.
NCAA Soccer Tournament Glance
All games at Gillette Soccer Complex, Field No. 1
Tuesday, April 27
New Mexico (10-1) vs. Navy (4-4-2), 6 p.m.
Wednesday, April 28
South Carolina (10-4) vs. Montana (9-1), 6 p.m.
Friday, April 30
New Mexico-Navy winner vs. No. 4 TCU (11-1-1)
Saturday, May 1
South Carolina-Montana winner vs. No. 13 Georgetown (11-0-1)
Sunday, May 2
Fordham (7-0-2) vs. Marshall (9-2-2), 1 p.m.
UCF (8-3-1) vs. James Madison (5-0-3), 5 p.m.
HOW TO WATCH
In person — Tickets are $10 each and are available for each of the six NCAA soccer matches through WAWtix.com. There is a maximum capacity of 400 spectators per match.
On TV — All games in Wilson will be televised on Greenlight Ch. 22. The games will also be streamed on NCAA.com.
J. Burt Gillette Athletic Complex has hosted many big soccer competitions since it opened in the spring of 2005 but the games scheduled there this week rank among the highest-profile events the facility has attracted.
With the NCAA deciding to hold the entirety of its men’s and women’s soccer tournaments in North Carolina, Gillette is one of nine facilities, including WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, around the state that will host first- and second-round matches. Six games — four women’s and two men’s — will be played on Field No. 1 from Tuesday to Sunday. WakeMed will host all the games in both tournaments after the second round, including both championship games May 17 at Sahlens Stadium.
“We were very excited about the opportunity to host some NCAA games here,” said Richard Frazier of Wilson Parks and Recreation Department. “Luckily with the quality of our fields and everything that we were considered to be a host site, and again it was a great privilege.”
Gillette is one of three public facilities, along with Bryan Park outside Greensboro and Sportsplex in Matthews, to be in the NCAA mix. A big reason for the is Gillette’s experience hosting major soccer events. The U.S. Youth Soccer Association held a significant number of games in 2008 for its Region III Championships, still the biggest event held at Gillette, while the U.S. Youth Soccer’s National League played its boys and girls season openers for 11 straight years until 2019. And, of course, The Brittany, the largest high school soccer showcase in the state, kicked off in 2005 with the opening of the Gillette Complex, which now includes a top-notch youth baseball facility as well.
Parks and Rec director David Lee said that it’s a credit not just to the complex, but to Frazier and parks manager Dale Edmunds, who is responsible for the playing surfaces, and all their staff members.
“It’s the vision everybody had as a tribute to all the work and how we’ve handled ourselves in the past,” Lee said. “ It’s a compliment to the quality of our fields. They didn’t want to play on the artificial turf, they wanted to be on the grass fields. They know the kind of grass that we’ve got and the kind of fields and the condition they’re in and how Dale handles all that kind of stuff. But it’s a big, big compliment to Richard and his staff on how they’ve run all these big national tournaments through the years.”
Lee also credited Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance executive director Scott Dupree, who grew up in Wilson, for considering Gillette when the group began working with the NCAA to find venues for both of its Div. I soccer tournaments.
“Scott is the one who pushed Wilson, said Wilson can do it, and put us in the mix,” Lee said. “We owe a lot of gratitude to Scott, but it’s also our past relationship with Wake County and the soccer up there and everything we’ve done.”
Most of that has been done by Frazier, who has been in charge of nearly every major soccer event that Gillette has hosted.
“We’ve hosted lots of events before, but to meet the criteria of the NCAA and now with all the COVID restrictions, that’s been the biggest challenge as far,” he said.
Gillette has quietly hosted several large soccer events already in 2021, Frazier, including an Olympic Development Program tournament, the Wilson Youth Soccer Association’s Clover Cup and some N.C. Youth Soccer Association postseason matches and several more on the way. Even with the National League, which brought dozens of elite youth teams and their families to Wilson for two weekends each fall, pulling out of Wilson, Frazier said that plenty of other opportunities, including this one, are helping to fill that void. But Frazier reminded that the National League making a home here for 11 years did as much as anything to establish Gillette as a premier soccer venue.
“I think that it’s very good for the community for people all across the country to come to Wilson to watch Division I college soccer,” he said. “This is college soccer for men and women at the highest level, and for us to be a host site is tremendous. I have had some feedback from some coaches that have been at Gillette recruiting before, so I think with our National League experience and everything was a feather in our cap with NCAA as far as having coaches know what type of facility we have and feel very comfortable coming to the complex, knowing that they’re going to be on a quality playing surface and have a first-class experience.”
Lee pointed out that some of the players who will be on display at Gillette this week may experience deja vu.
“Somebody pointed out to me and it’s pretty cool that they would bet that there’s somebody who’s going to be on one of these teams that has already been to Wilson come and played out at Gillette when they came for through the travel tournaments and stuff,” he said. “There’s probably going to be some players, this won’t be their first visit here.”
The spectator maximum for each game is 400 with each team getting 75 tickets. Fans can buy tickets online through WAXtix.com for $10 each. Social distancing protocols will be in effect. Games will also be televised locally on Greenlight Ch. 22 and streamed online at NCAA.com. Grant Roberson heads the local production crew that will feature Corey Hodges as the play-by-play announcer and Bridget Condon of WTVD in Durham as the sideline reporter.
While there have been sporting events here already this year, with the NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas baseball tournament at Fleming Stadium, two high-profile events will be going on for the first time since well before the pandemic began.
“Having the conference baseball tournament at Fleming just shows that Wilson’s a destination and we try do it right, which is something we’re really proud of,” Lee said. “I I just think it’s big with the NCAA name on it, and being Division I and some major colleges coming in that’s really neat.
“We’re just glad we’re starting things like that because we’ve missed it.”
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