Rosy Hayes, far left, watches the Doolen vs Mansfeld Middle School soccer match with her husband Billy and mother-in-law Debbie and dog Lil Bob. The new soccer complex is being used for this weekend's Tucson Association of Realtors Shootout. The photo was taken on Thursday, January 16, 2014, in Tucson, Ariz. Photo by A.E. Araiza/ Arizona Daily Star

A.E. Araiza/ Arizona Daily Star

A dimly lit vacant dirt lot filled with trash and graffiti used to lay adjacent to Doolen Middle School.

With help from Tucson Unified School District, the Fort Lowell Soccer Club and Tucson Parks and Recreation, that lot is now a soccer facility, complete with two sprawling fields and a walking path.

Doolen’s new fields will be the host sites for four different age groups in the Tucson Association of Realtors Shootout. The weekend-long event begins tonight, with opening ceremonies at Fort Lowell Park.

The Star sat down with Doolen principal Renee Morales and Curt Cannon, volunteer vice president of operations of the Fort Lowell Soccer Club. Here are four things to know about the new complex:

An ‘eyesore’ transformed

TUSD and Doolen Middle School are the first priority when it comes to usage, but Fort Lowell Soccer Club and adult leagues who donated toward the project will be able to play on the fields.

The school has found different ways to use the area. Doolen students are no longer confined to a concrete basketball court for P.E. activities. They also have a spacious area to hold fire drills.

Morales believes the area means more to the children than just a place to run around and play.

“This used to be dirt,” Morales said. “This was not only an eyesore, but just unavailable for those sorts of activities.”

Walking path open day and night

Wrapped around the two soccer fields is a half-mile paved walking path. When school is not in session, the path has provided a space for community members to exercise nearby. It’s lit so people can stop by after work.

Morales noted the area is filled with people on a daily basis. She noticed her staff at the school has also benefited.

“Before the teachers go home, they can throw on their shoes and come walk a few laps and burn off some steam. Do something good for their health,” she said.

Bettering the neighborhood

Now that there is no longer a dark, dirt-covered vacant lot, there’s no longer a welcome sign for trouble.

The area has given kids and soccer clubs a much needed place to practice given the shortage of well-lit fields in the area. With the opening of the new facility, there are more visitors to the school’s Boys & Girls Club.

The provided lighting has deterred crime and graffiti, and ultimately, kept the neighborhood safe. Morales said it’s helped the Doolen students have pride in their school.

More on the way

The area was unveiled to the public in September, but additions to the facility are on their way. In an effort to improve the space, partners have donated benches and garbage cans.

Base structures for field lighting are in the ground and should have lights in place sometime during the spring. This will allow adult leagues and soccer clubs to practice during the night next season.

Since the fields can be used in a variety of ways, plans for bleachers or seating are in talks. The partnership wants to be careful about what is made permanent.

Contact reporter Chuck Constantino at or 954-0859. On Twitter: @CConstan3 or @azprepstar