SAN ANTONIO – The STAR (South Texas Area and Regional) Soccer Complex will welcome approximately 1,500 young athletes from all across the Lone Star State to its inaugural tournament Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 20-21.

Carved out of the abandoned Longhorn Quarry in Northeast San Antonio, STAR is the state’s newest and most spacious soccer venue, said Ed Sakiewicz, STAR’s newly named director. The 40-acre site includes 14 lighted soccer fields and support facilities that cost $10 million to build.

“Our goal is to provide a truly memorable experience for both soccer players and spectators of all ages in a first-class, safe, professionally managed facility,” Sakiewicz said. “STAR participants may not realize it, but while they’re having fun and getting some great exercise, they’re contributing to a wonderful cause. Proceeds from STAR will support the operation and maintenance of Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first family fun park designed especially for special-needs children and adults.”

Philanthropist Gordon Hartman gave impetus to Morgan’s Wonderland and STAR through the creation of the non-profit Sports and Outdoor Recreation (SOAR) Foundation in 2007. SOAR decided to locate the facilities in a mega-sports complex on Wurzbach Parkway also occupied by the North East Independent School District’s football and baseball stadiums and track-and-field facilities. STAR excavation started in 2008, and construction of the soccer playing fields began in early 2009.

“Morgan’s Wonderland and STAR are all about having fun, and most important, they exist to encourage inclusion,” Hartman said. “In other words, individuals of all abilities will be able to come here and play side by side.”

STAR’s initial tournament involves the Tigres-Storm Futbol Club. It will feature 120 teams of youngsters ages 7 to 14 from San Antonio, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley, West Texas and other areas of the state. Tournament registration is available online at

The tournament will set in motion STAR’s busy schedule of competitive events, symposiums and clinics for soccer enthusiasts.

STAR offers 13 regulation soccer fields and one mini-field for smaller players; lighting for night play; free, lighted parking; vending and concessions; free Wi-Fi in the concessions area; indoor restrooms; a picnic area; and two playground areas.

Managing STAR is a full-time staff headed by Sakiewicz, who previously served as president of the San Antonio Metropolitan Youth Soccer Institute, a non-profit organization that developed a large soccer complex in Schertz, Texas. Nicknamed “Dr. Soccer,” Sakiewicz earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Capella University in Minneapolis, Minn. He also coached at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, played soccer professionally and collaborated with Major League Soccer (MLS), the United Soccer League (USL) and the U. S. Soccer Federation (USSF) on various projects over the past 14 years.

Dub Farris, formerly North Side Independent School District (NSISD) athletics director, serves as STAR’s special programs director. He is developing programs for special-education students as well as kids from all socio-economic backgrounds so all can enjoy the thrill of soccer. Farris taught biology and chemistry before embarking on a highly successful career in football coaching. He is credited with devising the system used in Texas to determine state champions for high school sports.

STAR’s field manager, Diana Driggers, is in charge of sales and scheduling of all activities including league play, tournaments and special events. A soccer player since her youth, she played in both college and at the semi-pro level. She has been a referee for the Women’s Soccer Association and earned the distinction of state emeritus referee, and she is a current board member for the Alamo Area Youth Soccer Association, Alamo City Youth Soccer Organization and Classics Elite Soccer Academy.

Karen Jenson, executive administrative assistant to Sakiewicz, has been in the athletic administration field for 16 years. Her most recent experience at NSISD included budgeting, purchasing and daily operational duties that involved 500 coaches, 15,000 games and 4,000 travel requests. A 1984 graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Jenson also worked with the University Interscholastic League in staging the 2009 Regional Spring Meet.

Tim Loesch has joined STAR as staff agronomist to keep the soccer fields in top playing condition. He began his turf industry career in 1997 with the College Station Independent School District and worked with the field maintenance staff at Texas A&M University while completing his degree in agronomy. He later served as head turf manager at Wolff Stadium for the San Antonio Missions pro baseball club. Loesch has been an active member of the Texas Turfgrass Association and the state and national Sport Turf Managers Association.

The STAR Soccer Complex is located in Northeast San Antonio near IH 35 and Wurzbach Parkway. For more STAR information, visit, with check-in set for 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19. All-day competition will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, and resume at 8 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, until the Copa-Tigres Tournament champions are, or call (210) 495-8686.


Michael Macias