By John DeCoste
After a wildly successful 26-year run, Kings County may have seen the last of the New Minas Invitational soccer tournament.
Keith Fuller, the most recent chairman of the tournament committee, confirmed Thursday the tournament has been cancelled for this year and that the future of the event is very much in doubt.
“It’s been getting more and more difficult to find volunteers to help,” Fuller said. “Several of us (on the organizing committee) have been at it for a while, and we’re getting burned out.”
The current group, he said, “is ready to move on, and there isn’t anyone willing to step up and lead.”
The committee, which has always been an entity in itself, independent of New Minas soccer or any other group, decided at its most recent meeting not to hold a tournament this year. Their decision was then communicated to Soccer Nova Scotia.
While there were offers to continue the tournament under a different format, according to committee treasurer (and former chair) Holly Thompson, “it’s always been a New Minas event, run by New Minas people, and all the money raised has stayed here” to the benefit of soccer infrastructure in New Minas.
For the tournament to be run outside New Minas, and still retain the name and infrastructure, would run counter to the original goals and to which it managed to remain true for 26 years.
Among other things, money from the New Minas Invitational has been used to improve the facilities at the tournament headquarters at Lockhart and Ryan Park, including a third soccer field.
As a result, the facility has been able to host numerous major soccer events over the years, including the national men’s club championship in 1996 and a number of provincial tournaments.
Begun in 1986 as an eight-team event for mini teams, the New Minas Invitational became a huge event, both athletically and economically, attracting more than 200 teams at its height and pumping millions of dollars into the local economy.
And while Fuller stressed, “this doesn’t mean it’s over for good,” the tournament’s run is likely over unless solid local leadership can be found committed to continuing the event and maintaining the standards the tournament created.
The committee plans to stay together as a society, Fuller said, and use the money it holds in reserve to “continue to support infrastructure projects for soccer” in New Minas.
“We’ll also be looking for a major infrastructure project we might support.”