Pickerington Area Soccer Association officials said they are thrilled with news Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law the 2014 State Capital Budget for the biennium beginning July 1, 2014.
Of the $1.269 million directed for various Fairfield County for various projects in the budget -- mostly historical preservation of county landmarks - the PASA received a $100,000 grant for field lighting of its facility at 630 Hill Road North in Pickerington.
The grant comes at a time when PASA, at 41 years old, is experiencing unprecedented growth. The organization has more than 1,000 youth and adult soccer players enrolled in various recreational and select programs.
A state-of-the-art lighted facility will allow for expanded and larger tournaments at night, which will in turn afford more opportunities for both area residents and visitors to experience the game of soccer, said Rex Droese, PASA president.
"It's going to afford us the ability to do things we've never been able to do," Droese said.
"We've never been able to do anything after sundown so it can get pretty compact on the weekends," he said.
"It will allow for more flexibility in scheduling to have night games," said Droese, who added soccer camps and clinics will also benefit.
Expanded playing opportunities in all these areas translates into a boost to the local economy, said state Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), who was instrumental in procuring the grant.
"It will bring out-of-towners," Schaffer said.
"Along with allowing more tournaments with added hours which will allow for bigger tournaments with more teams, those teams get hungry," he said.
"They eat, stay in the hotels and interact with our local vendors.
"It's a great benefit to Pickerington," Schaffer said.
Droese said PASA owes a debt of gratitude to Schaffer in helping to secure the grant.
"The way he pushed for us, it's just tremendous," Droese said.
Schaffer said PASA brought a solid plan and credibility to the table.
"What I typically do when capital projects come up is solicit for project ideas from non-profit organizations," he said.
"PASA had several ideas. The organization was extremely organized and they put in a solid project description.
"It's a very credible organization with a long history," Schaffer said.
"All these things came together and we were able to secure the grant," he said.
Droese also credited the PASA Board of Directors for coordinating logistics.
"This whole grant was a team effort," Droese said.
"Every single board member had an impact when it came down to decision-making for the grant project," he said. "They're an awesome group."
It also helped that Schaffer has a soccer background himself, having played in college for Mount Union.
The former Pickerington resident said he's still an avid follower of the game.
"I see the potential that this sport and this organization has for continued growth in Pickerington," he said.
Droese said the timeline for the light installation depends on when the capital budget is finalized, which is supposed to be in May.
"Then we're allowed to move forward with contractors," he said, adding he hopes to have the lights installed in the fall.
The lights will illuminate PASA's primary full-sized game field.
The organization also has several practice fields located throughout the Pickerington/Violet Township area.
PASA is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that fields boys and girls teams for youths ages 6 through 18 years old.
Droese said PASA would not be able to sustain operations without the generosity of its local sponsors, which now number 10.
"We have a sponsorship program that keeps the fields maintained and repaired, buys goals and supplies," he said.
"They help us improve our complex without raising our fees."
PASA also inked a formal partnership with the Columbus Crew's youth development club, Crew Juniors, last June.
"Our partnership generates excitement and interest in the game," Droese said.