When the Franklin girls soccer team hosted Decatur Central on Aug. 31, dozens of students turned out to help pack the stands for a 5-1 Grizzly Cubs win.
“It’s intimidating whenever you can draw that kind of crowd,” coach Dave Young said.
“Hopefully we can continue that on those home games, and those students can help us continue winning.”
In the past, it wouldn’t have really been an option. Seating at Grizzly Cubs boys and girls soccer matches was previously limited largely to whatever parents and other fans brought for themselves to sit on.
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Not anymore. Franklin’s soccer facilities got a major facelift during the summer, including bleachers, fencing and a concession stand.
“All of our other facilities are great; they’re perfect,” Franklin athletics director John Regas said. “They’re state of the art. They’re exactly what we need. Soccer was just lacking … It was definitely something that was needed in order to keep up with the rest of our facilities.”
The bleachers were paid for through the school budget, part of an upgrade plan that also included resurfacing the basketball floor and the tennis courts. The fencing and concession stands were handled by the Franklin Community Soccer Association, a booster club put together about five years ago by boys coach Tony Harris.
“We needed to come up with some way to raise more money to help the school do some of the things that we wanted done,” Harris said of the formation of FCSA. “And we didn’t want to wait.”
The booster club solicited monetary donations as well as materials and labor. As a result, the concession stand was constructed for about $7,000 — approximately a quarter of what it might have cost otherwise.
With the improved facility in place, Regas and the coaches are hopeful that Franklin will be in a position to host more tournament events. The Grizzly Cubs are hosting a girls sectional this fall but haven’t been able to host on the boys side because of a lack of available seating.
That’s no longer a concern.
“It was a community effort,” Young said, “and as you can see, they’re some of the nicest bleachers around, nice concession stand. The field is outstanding this year. There’s a lot of people that were involved, and it’s huge for Franklin soccer.”
The Grizzly Cubs have built a strong soccer program, with both the boys and girls teams currently in contention for Mid-State Conference championships. Franklin’s aim is to become an area and state power in the sport — something that feels a little more attainable now that it looks the part.
“I feel like from the time we’ve gotten here we’ve made soccer more important,” Harris said. “We’ve won some games, been more relevant, and now the school and the soccer association here in Franklin has stepped up — and we’re all on the same page about where we want this program to go.”