When Antonio Saviano joined the Premiere Sports Complex in 2013, there was an open field with so much potential. While most saw just space, Saviano had a vision of something spectacular and on Saturday night that dream became more of a reality.
The U.S. U-17 team played host to its first match at the new facility, convincingly beating Guatemala 9-0 in front of a large crowd.
“We’ve been in big games before, but I told my guys this is our first international game in our own stadium, in our hometown under the lights,” USA coach John Hackworth said. “Our team has been a great kept secret; we’ve been around since 1999 and trained at IMG Academy but never really had a home field until now.”
Zyen Jones led team U.S. with a hat trick, but the offense was in attack mode all night, building a 5-0 lead at the half and scoring its last goal in the 82nd minute.
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“That’s not a traditional soccer score, but my guys came out ready to go, and we want to build on that as we come back in a couple months and play some of the best teams in the world,” Hackworth added.
His team will play host to Costa Rica in October, and a Nike tournament in late November/early December that organizers hope will draw thousands and more than 500 scouts.
While soccer is the main attraction at the facility at the moment, Saviano, the director of sports, stresses it’s a multi-purpose facility.
“When we started breaking ground a year ago, I saw such promise and knew I wanted it to be special for everyone,” Saviano said. “We have our first movie night Sept. 30, and we will be doing that each month until April at no charge in an attempt to bring the community closer while allowing them to check out our beautiful stadium.”
Along with musical and pumpkin festivals, the complex will host rugby matches, lacrosse, ultimate frisbee and football.
With Saviano’s hard work and the expansion of facilities, the complex has been able to go from hosting 14 events in 2013 to more than 40 this year.
“We are anticipating that from January 2016 to December 2016 we would have had over 70,000 people come through our gates,” Saviano said. “It showcases our community, not just Lakewood Ranch but Sarasota and Bradenton as well.”
The complex has a recreational soccer team, allowing kids age 4-12 to play, while offering travel teams for kids age 9-18. The crown jewel is the national team.
The impact has been huge already.
“I love it, it has such a family first feeling,” Alex Jones said. “My son plays for coach Antonio and he’s fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about this place.”