Partner Spotlight: Q&A with Trish Heffelfinger of Maryland SoccerPlex

January 10, 2017

Maryland SoccerPlex, one of Montgomery Parks’ partners, is a world-class soccer facility located in South Germantown Recreational Park. The complex, which opened in October 2000, has grown significantly throughout the years and now has 24 fields. The majority of SoccerPlex’s visitors come from local soccer clubs and leagues, but teams from all over the country come to participate in youth soccer and lacrosse tournaments. Over 5,000 matches are played annually at the complex. Trish Heffelfinger, Executive Director of SoccerPlex, took a moment out of her busy day to share her vision for the facility and describe its role in the community.

Q: What do you love most about your job as Executive Director of Maryland SoccerPlex?

A: The team of people I work with every day. There is no more dedicated, committed and talented staff than ours. I spend more time with these folks than I do my family and so they have become like family. A lot of our staff have been here five years or longer. Keith Lenert, our Director of Operations, and I opened the SoccerPlex in 2000.  There is always a new challenge, a problem to solve or a customer to help and everyone works together to make sure the customer has a great experience.

 Q: What is your vision for the facility?

 A: My initial vision 17 years ago was to develop the finest 24-field soccer complex in the country. This year we completed our last two fields so the dream is complete. But the SoccerPlex to me is more than just high quality fields, it’s really a place that kids of all ages can experience their sport or activity in a beautiful, positive environment. It’s more about families spending time together engaged in healthy outdoor activity than it is about high level competition. It’s a really fun place to spend time.

 Q: How do you see SoccerPlex’s role in the community?

 A: Our role in the community has really evolved over time. In the beginning we just wanted to be good neighbors. We wanted the communities adjacent to the SoccerPlex to embrace us and we wanted to be sensitive to their concerns over traffic and noise. Today, we are active members of the greater Germantown community. We see ourselves as an integral part of this community. We were founding members of the newly revived Germantown Alliance. We are active in the Germantown and Clarksburg chambers. We’ve established a wonderful partnership with Spark Matsunaga Elementary School. In fact they bring all of their students here in June for field day. Together with Black Rock Center for the Arts we run a summer camp called Sports Meets the Arts. We welcome more than 650,000 visitors every year and we provide a positive economic benefit of $24 million annually.

 Q: What current or future programs, events or initiatives are you most excited about?  

 A: We’d really like to establish an annual signature concert for Montgomery County. It would be held outdoors and we’d like it to be a multi-generational concert, an event families want to come to and add to their “must attend events” every year. Future initiatives will focus on health and safety. Today one of the greatest issues in the sports community concerns concussions. This past fall we began having a certified athletic trainer on site every weekend during the fall soccer season who could be called by anyone at one of our fields to request assistance for an injury, especially an evaluation of a possible concussion. We want our athletes and their families to feel safe at all levels.

 Q: The Maryland SoccerPlex has become much more than just an outstanding soccer facility. How do other sports and activities fit into the mission of the facility?

 A: Soccer is still 80% of our business. We are blessed with a very robust soccer community in the DMV and the Mid-Atlantic is one of the hotbeds of soccer in the country. That being said we’ve always tried to be inclusive and provide opportunities to a diversity of sports. So far we’ve hosted lacrosse, rugby, ultimate Frisbee, kickball, and field hockey. And we’ve had the opportunity to host some very high level events such as the ACC Men’s Soccer Championships (UMD won both years we hosted), the US Youth Soccer National Championships, international matches, an Olympic qualifier and DC United matches. The Washington Spirit, of the National Women’s Soccer League call the SoccerPlex their home fields.

 Q: What are some of the benefits of being located inside South Germantown Recreational Park?

 A: The first and most important benefit is that without South Germantown Park and MNCPPC, there would be no SoccerPlex. The SoccerPlex is a great Montgomery County story. The Parks Department had this amazing 655-acre parcel of land that was master planned for a soccer complex and all of the other facilities that exist today but there was no public funding for the development. The Maryland Soccer Foundation, a local non-profit established to develop a 24-field complex, had the funding but no land. Both parties were able to leverage the strengths of the other to develop this extraordinary park. The relationship that has been built over the past 17 years is special. From the Planning Board to the Director of Parks to our friends in Park Police to our three Park Managers, Mike Little, Dean Turnbull and now Neal Hollingshead, we’ve been so fortunate to have received unwavering support and a genuine commitment to our success.