Commissioner: Mattituck Soccer Club will be allowed to use fields in Laurel

As the spring season winds down at the Aldrich Lane fields in Laurel, rumors are flying like corner kicks that the Mattituck Soccer Club’s summer program might not be welcome there.

But it seems the rumors aren’t true. The Mattituck Park District, which owns the fields, expects to say yes to the club, perhaps as soon as its next meeting on Thursday, June 9.

The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District owns a portion of the Aldrich Lane fields, which complicates the park district’s ability to approve users, said Charlie Zaloom, the chairman of the park district board of commissioners.

After the commissioners gave McGann-Mercy High School’s lacrosse teams access to the fields earlier this spring, the Mattituck school sent the park district a cease and desist order, asking that it hold off on approving any more users until the park district receives a new lease for the school’s land. The lease had expired last year.

Mr. Zaloom said the school district has since given the park district verbal authorization to approve field use, and that he expects that the school district will give the park district a new lease to sign very soon.

“There’s no other applicant. It’s not even considered in our minds that we would stop the Mattituck Soccer Club,” said Mr. Zaloom on Friday. “I’m getting letters from grandmothers saying my granddaughter won’t be able to play soccer. I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know where that comes from.”

School Board President Jerry Diffley could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr. Zaloom said that the commissioners are also planning to allow the Mattituck Soccer Club to use all four fields at Aldrich Lane this summer, bringing an MSC team that currently plays on Southold Town’s Strawberry Fields down to play on the same site, at the request of the club.

The park commissioners are in the process of reviewing a field-use policy, a standard document used by many parks and recreation organizations providing clear use guidelines. Once that policy is adopted, he said, field use approval can come from the district clerk with no need for a vote by the commissioners.

“I don’t want three Brahmins sitting up there flipping coins,” said Mr. Zaloom. He called the current selection system “unfair, not a good use of a public facility, and not legal either.”

A public meeting on the field-use policy will be held June 20 at 7 p.m. at the park district headquarters at Veterans Memorial Beach. Though the public is welcome to attend, Mr. Zaloom said public comment on the policy will not be taken until later this year. He expects the policy will be in place by next January.

Mr. Zaloom added that some seem to be developing conspiracy theories about the approval process, leading to a perception that the commissioners are biased against soccer.

“It shouldn’t be informal, with people saying ‘we’re the guys who were here first,’” he said. “That doesn’t stand up in court. We can’t support a private group, even if they’re a nonprofit enterprise, on public property. It would be like setting up a business or putting a church there.”

But in this case, “there’s only one applicant,” Mr. Zaloom said. “It’s the Mattituck Soccer Club. There’s no contention with another soccer league.”

He noted that in the Mattituck area “soccer is a religion, not a sport.”

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