The Newark Area Soccer Association (NASA) will play host to a large tournament in May.

The Newark Area Soccer Association (NASA) will play host to a large tournament in May.

The Buckeye Cup is a multi-state invitational to be held May 2 and 3.

Newark Mayor Bob Diebold said these are the types of events that help pack local restaurants.

Keith Loughlin, NASA managing director, said the event is expected to bring in 144 teams of youth ages 9 to 14, along with their parents and friends.

"It's the one that brings in 3,000 people; they are going to spend money here and have an economic impact," Loughlin said.

NASA has been planning a large spring tournament for several years. Loughlin said because spring typically is a rainy season, Newark is the best place for such a tournament.

"Our fields are designed for rain," he said. "They can handle 4 inches of rain in 24 hours."

Loughlin said NASA, which was started in 1991, has been building toward this goal.

"We have some of the best fields in central Ohio, and we're at a size now where we can now start bringing in more teams," he said.

The tournament will be for upper-level boys and girls teams and will be conducted in a round-robin format.

"We offer better facilities and a better atmosphere," Loughlin said.

Diebold said the city is proud to host the event and needs to work with NASA to help the organization expand further.

Loughlin said NASA is among the groups trying to alleviate traffic congestion on 21st Street by finding alternate accesses.

The NASA complex is behind the Meijer store in north Newark, and the entrance is off 21st Street. In addition to soccer, North Newark and Mound City Little League teams practice in fields farther back, and all areas are accessed via one small entry on the north side of Meijer.

"We need to better plan how people enter and exit," Diebold said.

Loughlin said NASA currently hosts four tournaments annually, and teams come from all over to play there.

The city is working with NASA to open a portion of grassy land off Moloviste Avenue to allow NASA to use as an exit once a year. A cable must be removed, but cars could drive through the land.

Diebold told council during the Dec. 1 meeting that it is not an actual road, just an access point that would be used once a year with police manning the access.

Several residents complained during the Dec. 1 meeting, saying they do not want road access there. They told council a petition against the access has been submitted to the city.

"They (the city) are trying to be as helpful as possible, but this is not an easy fix," Loughlin said.

The two groups still are working on the issue.

In the meantime, Loughlin said, NASA is accepting applications for the tournament. Registration forms can be printed from the Web site:

"Most of the teams that play here are from out of the county," Loughlin said. "This is just a natural extension of our program."

NASA currently has 1,000 members and a staff of volunteers, with only one full-time paid person.

"This (tournament) might be a way for us to raise funds to hire personnel," he said.

Loughlin also is working with local businesses to organize information, gifts and special offers for people coming into the Buckeye Cup.

"We want them to enjoy their stay here," he said.

He said he hopes that eventually, the tournament could be expanded to include 400 teams.

"Ultimately, we want the tournament to grow," he said.