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New building upgrades experience for PACE youth soccer players, families

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Take a look back at these scenes of South Omaha through the years.

Life will look, feel and smell sweeter this summer for the thousands of young people who play PACE soccer and the families who flock to watch them at Campos Soccer Complex in South Omaha.

PACE (Police Athletics for Community Engagement) is saying goodbye to porta-potties, and hello to indoor bathrooms at the field. The bathrooms, a first for the fields at 5035 S. 33rd St., are the least glitzy but may be the most welcome of upgraded amenities that include a concessions building, new scoreboards and sidewalks.

“It’s exciting for the kids and their families to have a nice facility down there to go along with the field,” said Richard Gonzalez, PACE’s executive director. “Nobody in that 90-degree heat wants to have to use a porta-potty.”

The bathrooms are in what PACE people are calling a snack shack. It includes a concession stand and storage space. The snack shack, scoreboards and sidewalks come courtesy of a $488,000 donation from meatpacker JBS USA. Company and PACE officials formally marked the completion of the improvements Wednesday night as children in cleats took the fields for practice.

“Way better!” 7-year-old Jencarlos Lopez declared before running to join his PACE team.

Noting that the field is just one block away from a JBS beef production plant, PACE co-founder Tony Espejo said the organization is forever grateful for its partnership with its neighbor.

“Generations of South Omahans have benefited from the packing industry, and now JBS has provided future generations a first-class facility in their own backyard,” Espejo said.

Karl Meyer, JBS Omaha’s director of human resources, said the company is proud to partner with PACE to provide the improved facility to young athletes.

“We hope this state-of-the-art complex will serve our team members and neighbors for many years to come,” Meyer said.

Soccer mom Cassie Steinmark said it will make it more enjoyable for players and parents. Her soccer-playing daughter, Tianna Steinmark, put it in a 10-year-old’s plainspeak: “I won’t have to go use a porta-potty, which is disgusting.”

PACE provides free soccer, baseball and other sports and recreation to a growing number of young people every year. Many of its coaches and other volunteers are officers from the Omaha Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies. More than 2,500 children and teenagers are registered so far to play on 80 to 85 PACE soccer teams this summer, Gonzalez said. Teams from other organizations, such as The Simple Foundation/OHA, will likely push the number of young people playing in PACE soccer leagues well over 3,000.

The improvements not only will make the experience more pleasant and more sanitary for players and fans, they’ll also be a point of pride for them, Gonzalez said.

“It means a lot to be able to offer our kids, families and the community something nice on your own home field, amenities that others have,” Gonzalez said. “We’re appreciative of JBS and all of our sponsors and donors that have given these kids the extra things, whether it be equipment, or a snack shack. It’s what keeps us going and gives the kids positive opportunities.”

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Chris Burbach covers the Douglas County Board, Planning Board and other local government bodies, as well as local neighborhood issues. Follow him on Twitter @chrisburbach. Phone: 402-444-1057.

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