East Ridge's soccer gear dispute goes to trial Feb. 29

East Ridge's soccer gear dispute goes to trial Feb. 29

February 22nd, 2012 by Kate Belz in News

East Ridge City Attorney John Anderson

East Ridge City Attorney John Anderson

Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee

East Ridge's new city-run soccer league temporarily must share space and equipment with its predecessor and now-competitor, a Hamilton County judge ordered Tuesday.

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline Bolton is set to hold an expedited trial Feb. 29 to determine whether $100,000 worth of soccer equipment at Camp Jordan belongs to the East Ridge Soccer Association -- which ran the city's soccer leagues for years -- or to the city.

Until a resolution is reached, the city must allow ERSA access to Camp Jordan's fields, and allow it to use the equipment in dispute, Bolton ordered. The group also has permission to set up registration for its league at the site.

The city started a soccer league of its own after the independent soccer association refused to operate under the authority of East Ridge's new Parks and Recreation Department.

At the end of January, the city had all of Camp Jordan's locks rekeyed after learning some league members were planning to take the equipment -- which city officials say belongs to East Ridge taxpayers.

ERSA's fate is tied directly to who owns the soccer gear, ERSA attorney Chris Clem said Tuesday in court.

"They are now competing with us, and they're trying to stop us from competing with them by seizing our equipment," Clem said.

East Ridge City Attorney John Anderson argued that no one is being denied access to the fields or equipment, but Bolton interjected, saying that a speedy resolution was necessary to allow families time to understand their options and register with the league of their choice.

"Time is of the essence for the kids more than the money. ... For the kids to have a program to play in -- that they want to play in, that they signed up to play in -- time is of the essence."

In the meantime, Bolton has scheduled mediation for the two parties on Thursday that could eliminate the need for the trial next week.

Meanwhile, the city is moving ahead with its own soccer league.

Jon Hooper, a former ERSA president, was named to oversee the soccer branch of the Parks and Recreation Department during a meeting Monday of the newly created East Ride Soccer Advisory Board.