By NATE MARTINEZ
Pima Community College Athletic Director Jim Monaco, Chancellor Lee Lambert and VisitTucson Sports Sales Manager Nick Pazzi recently announced that they have partnered with the NJCAA to bring the Division-II junior college soccer tournament to the Kino North complex.
“We are so pleased to announce that we have become the host site for the NJCAA Division II men’s and women’s soccer championship, the week of Nov. 12-19 of this year,” Lambert said. “This is a tremendous achievement for Pima Community College and the city of Tucson.
“Additionally, I’d like to say this would not have happened without the tremendous soccer community here in Tucson and the success we’re having with athletics in general and soccer specifically.”
The move to bring the tournament to Tucson was made the season after the men’s and women’s teams made it to the final round of last year’s tournament in November in Wichita, Kansas.
The city of Tucson has become a hotbed of soccer talent in the last few years. Last year, the men claimed the Division II trophy by beating CCBC Essex (Maryland), its second championship since 2018.
The women lost to Heartland (Illinois) in the title match before the men. Both of them came down to penalty kicks. The women reached the championship for the first time.
FC Tucson, a professional soccer club, made the USL League One semifinal match, its first playoff season in history. Their season ended in a loss by Union Omaha in Nebraska.
“It’s just, again, a fine example of when you set a high standard of excellence,” Lambert said. “Our board of governors have set the standard of being a premiere community college. That cuts across every facet of what we do here, from the academic side, to the student services side, to our athletic programs. I think today’s announcement is another example of being the best across the country.”
The NJCAA Division II tournament is just the latest soccer event to end up in Tucson. In January, Kino North hosted a few MLS teams for preseason training, including the Seattle Sounders, Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo.
The Flowing Wells Shootout is another big tournament that features some of the best youth soccer players that Southern Arizona has to offer.
The Tucson soccer community is expected to be ecstatic about the NJCAA moving its Division II title to Tucson.
Monaco believes that it will attract many new fans, not only to the sport, but to the college and city in general.
“Personally, I look at this as a national recognition for Pima,” Monaco said. “We have incredible teams, we have incredible coaches. I’m just so blessed to be a part of an athletic department that runs like this. More importantly, it gives the college a national platform. Hopefully, It’ll increase enrollment.
“It’ll get people who want to come to Tucson and possibly want to go to the U of A, or just possibly wanna enjoy their college experience at Pima, a place that’s just fantastic to be,” Monaco said. “So with all that said, I believe this really benefits the college as a whole and our community. It’s gonna be amazing to have these folks here, and if this goes the way it’s planned, I don’t think it’s gonna leave Tucson. With the soccer community we have, it shouldn’t.”
The addition of the tournament to Tucson is going to bring in 24 different teams across the country to play for the championship. The increase in people in the month of November is expected to generate tons of revenue for the city.
“It’s gonna be great for Tucson and Pima College and Pima County as well, ” Poxxey said. “It is going to fill hotels. We anticipate roughly about $225,000 on hotel revenue generated just from the teams, the coaches and the staff. Overall just the teams and the staff coming to visit, you’re looking at well over $1 million in economic spending here in our community.
“That does not include the families, the fans, people locally that are gonna pay to come to Kino Sports Complex to see the event. So obviously, it’s a great revenue generator for the community.”
The Pima men’s and women’s programs have almost been regulars to the NJCAA tournament, so a short drive to Kino is just one of a handful of advantages for them, should they make it again.
“I think always playing in front of a home crowd and hopefully the numbers are really good when we do, ” Pima men’s coach David Cosgrove said. “First of all, we have to make it. It’s no guarantee. Our conference is extremely difficult. If we’re fortunate enough to be here, I think playing in front of your family, your friends, your local community, I think that just adds a little bit more energy and focus and the desire to perform well.
“Any sport has home-field advantage. If we’re fortunate enough to have it, I think that gives us a little bit of an extra edge.”
The soccer programs have a while to go before the start of their season and an even longer time until the tournament begins.
Until then, the coaches are excited that Tucson is hosting the tournament and think it will bring nothing but good things to the athletes and the community.
“I think that Tucson is a great place to host, especially in November,” Pima women’s coach Kendra Veliz said. “With the facilities that we have here and the soccer community that we have that can support something like this and the weather in November here, it can’t be beat. I think it’s a prime place to pull people in.”