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EDITORIAL: End soccer field controversy by utilizing all available open space

A worsening feud over city of Las Vegas soccer fields is making the bitter football rivalries of Latin America and Europe seem downright friendly.

On one side is the Nevada Youth Soccer Association, which has about 12,000 participants statewide and has long been allowed by the city to decide tournament dates and oversee field use. On the other side is the Southern Nevada Soccer Association, which has about 6,500 participants and wants better field assignments. In the middle is the city of Las Vegas, which wants its 55 fields to generate more revenue.

As reported by the Review-Journal’s Benjamin Spillman this month, the dispute has created a bit of political intrigue because the first vice president of the Southern Nevada Soccer Association and the man the city has been negotiating with over premium dates is Key Reid, son of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Both city officials and Mr. Reid’s group say the Nevada Youth Soccer Association overwhelmingly favors itself and its board members in doling out field assignments. A statement from Mr. Reid’s group said its rival uses its power to “bully the clubs and leagues.”

However, according to Mr. Spillman’s report, rather than take an open-to-all-comers approach to field management, city officials have been negotiating directly with Mr. Reid to give him the fields his association wants for a college and junior tournament in the spring. According to emails obtained by Mr. Spillman, city officials clearly knew their talks with Mr. Reid could open sizable cans of worms.

“One idea would be to having (sic) two additional weekends for open bid, although doing this free market approach does not guarantee Key’s organization gets the weekend,” Lonny Zimmerman, the city’s deputy director of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, wrote in an email to Deputy City Manager Scott Adams. “Unfortunately,” Mr. Zimmerman added, “bending the policy to assure we can accommodate Key will open the flood gates for everyone else when Key’s organization advertises what they got.”

No kidding. The city is trying to solve one problem by creating another. If the city wants more money from leagues and tournament organizers, the surest way of doing so is to open field use to bids. Mr. Reid wants a privately brokered deal from the city for good reason: If he doesn’t have to compete with other groups to take over two entire city field complexes for a prime weekend in March, he’s more likely to get a better deal. And that’s a bad deal for taxpayers.

The city needs to get out of the business of favoring one association over another. There is no shortage of fields in this valley. Including the city’s 55 fields, the valley has a little more than 150 fields available from municipal governments. But throw in the dozens more fields controlled by private entities and the fields available at more than 300 Clark County School District campuses, and there’s plenty of open space for everyone, at costs that ensure access for everyone. If leagues can’t find fields, they’re not looking hard enough.

The city needs to clean up the way it manages the beautiful game.

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