If Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew moves its training facilities to Hilliard, there will be at least 2,500 winners, according to the head of the Hilliard Ohio Soccer Association (HOSA).

If Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew moves its training facilities to Hilliard, there will be at least 2,500 winners, according to the head of the Hilliard Ohio Soccer Association (HOSA).

Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt said last week that he was "guardedly optimistic" that Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew will relocate its training facility from the Village of Obetz to Hilliard, following the announcement that $500,000 had been included in the state capital bill to support the proposed relocation.

Hilliard officials and representatives of Columbus-based Skilken Development are in the process of negotiating a 2-for-1 land swap where Skilken would transfer 60 acres adjacent to Municipal Park to the city in exchange for a nearby 29-acre site. Plans call for the development of soccer fields on the 60-acre parcel, while Skilken would develop a mixed use, commercial/office development on the 29-acre site. Schonhardt said that development would likely include office, medical office, lodging and restaurant uses.

Crew spokesman David J. Stephany acknowledged that Hilliard is among a small group of central Ohio communities being considered for the relocation.

"We were aware that the city of Hilliard had requested state capital dollars in support of a potential Crew training complex and are pleased that the state recognizes the value of investing in soccer infrastructure in central Ohio," he said. "This is a positive development in Hilliard's plans for a soccer complex, but our process of evaluating prospective sites continues."

HOSA President Greg Lutz said Tuesday morning that his organization, which oversees youth soccer programs in the community, would benefit greatly from the proposed relocation.

Lutz said HOSA representatives have been involved in negotiations with the city of Hilliard and the Columbus Crew for months, meeting on approximately six occasions.

"I guess back in February was the first time we met with the city and the Crew, with the emphasis being on the 2,500 kids in our soccer association," Lutz said. "We wanted to make sure they were taken care of."

"One of the things we are hoping to take advantage of with the Crew is their indoor facility," Lutz said. "Especially for our TOPS program for children with developmental, physical and mentally handicapped children. When you get foul weather, it's a little harder for them to get out and enjoy soccer, so, we're hoping that we can take advantage of the indoor facility for those kids."

Lutz said the addition of eight full-size regulation playing fields to be developed by the Crew will also be a major plus for HOSA.

HOSA was formed in 1976 as the Ridgewood Optimists Club, a volunteer organization, to coordinate and govern soccer activities in the Hilliard area. Over the years, HOSA has raised funds through community donations and pay-to-play fees, donations or the sale of soccer related clothing and supplies.

The community at-large, through the Hilliard City School District, the city of Hilliard Parks and Recreation Department, the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, Franklin County Fair Board, Brown Township, Washington Township, churches, businesses and residences, has provided facilities.

HOSA has a long-term lease on the Hilliard Soccer Park located off Scioto Darby Road adjacent to the city of Hilliard Municipal Park East. Past HOSA Trustee Steve McVoy purchased the land for HOSA's exclusive use through a generous $50,000 donation to the city of Hilliard. HOSA and the city of Hilliard maintain that facility.

A second facility, the Hilliard Soccer Complex, opened in 2003 approximately one-half mile west of the Hilliard Soccer Park on Scioto Darby Road. That land was purchased at a cost of $600,000, graded and seeded at a cost of $420,000, and a parking lot installed at a cost of $13,200 by the city of Hilliard. HOSA has signed a 25-year lease on the facility.

In 1976 HOSA fielded six co-ed youth recreational soccer teams playing on three fields located on land owned by the St. Brendan's Catholic Church.

By 1978, select "traveling" teams were established and playing against other community teams in the Mid Ohio Select Soccer League (MOSSL). These teams would later form the Futbol Club program in 1998. In 1978, the Recreational Program included teams ages kindergarten through sixth grade and used fields at Ridgewood Elementary School, Avery Elementary School, Brown Elementary School and Britton Middle School.

In 1984, Hilliard Ohio Soccer Association (HOSA) was incorporated as a 501C3 not-for-profit corporation. The recreational and select programs supported 250 players. HOSA's ability to use school property for play began to diminish as the growth of the school system escalated.

In 1989 to alleviate a shortage of fields, the city of Hilliard leased the Franklin County Fairgrounds parking area from the fair board for the exclusive use of HOSA when the fair board was not using the area for parking. HOSA and the city of Hilliard jointly maintained this facility until June 2002. At that time, fair board usage of the fields as parking areas for their events increased and precluded the use of this area for soccer.

In 1991, the Hilliard Soccer Park, with three full-size fields, was opened for the exclusive use of HOSA. In 1999, additional ground was cleared of trees to accommodate the current full-size fields and one U-10 field for the Futbol Club Program, four mini-fields for the TOPS Program and two U-6 recreational program fields.

In 1997 HOSA's recreational program reached a milestone with 1,000 registered participants and an additional 300 players registered in the Select (Futbol Club) and GOYSL Programs.

In 2002, HOSA had 1,700 players registered in the Recreational Program, 300 players registered in the GOYSL Program and 300 players registered in the Futbol Club Program.