FLOWERY BRANCH — On Thursday, the Hall County Commission will hold budget meetings that will determine the fate of Parks and Leisure Services such as the Mulberry Creek Community Center.
One of the budget proposals calls for the closing of all recreation facilities, and if that were the case, it would be a crushing blow to the North Georgia Screamin’ Eagles, a power soccer team that practices and plays all home games at Mulberry Creek.
Power soccer is a sport in which people with paralysis use a power wheelchair to play the game.
The Screamin’ Eagles, which debuted during the 2006-07 season, have used the Mulberry Creek facility since it opened nearly two years ago, and it’s considered the team’s final stop after they left the South Hall Community Center.
Should Mulberry Creek no longer be available to them, they will have no other known place to turn.
“We’d uncover every stone we could,” said Screamin’ Eagles coach Brian Farmer, when asked the facility options beyond Mulberry Creek. “But this is a bare-bones operation. We have no sponsor like a Shepherd’s Clinic like some of the other teams do. We’ve raised our funds every year by reaching out to the community and holding yard sales and raffles.
“So far we’ve been blessed, but getting shut down (as an organization) is on our mind.”
From a competition standpoint, the Screamin’ Eagles are incredibly stable. After winning two consecutive Southeastern League regular season titles, they finished third season. From June 23-25 at Mulberry Creek, they hosted the United States Power Soccer Association’s Presidents Conference Cup Tournament, which consisted of six teams from across the country, as far out as Oakland, Calif.
The Screamin’ Eagles roared all the way to the championship game, but fell 2-0 to the GLASA Chicago Fire.
However, at the end of the season, the top two teams from each conference are promoted to the next level conference (while the bottom two teams are relegated to the lower conference), meaning, as conference runner-ups this year, the Screamin’ Eagles will compete next season in the Champions Conference, which is two levels below the highest competition — the Premier Conference.
The promotion demonstrates the steady uphill climb they’ve had since finishing last in regionals their inaugural season. They’re a part of a sport and USPSA league that continues to grow both nationally and internationally.
They’re still trying to grow as a team, as well. The Screamin’ Eagles currently have only eight players on their roster.
“We’ve gotten better and better each year,” said Screamin’ Eagle Justin Pressley, a co-founder of the team who has played with them since Day 1. “We’re still trying to get the word out because I know there are a lot of people in power wheelchairs, and we’d like to show them the game too.”
But their progress could be halted altogether Thursday.
Screamin’ Eagles team member Russell Gregory said the team has grown to become a family. Most of its members have been on the team for several years and features males and females from as young as 13 and as old as 39.
“To be honest (Mulberry Creek) is like our home,” Gregory said. “If it was to close, who knows what happens. Maybe we won’t have a sport to play. There’s not many out there for those with conditions like ours. It would be really unfortunate.”
Even if the Screamin’ Eagles were to find another venue, losing Mulberry Creek would still be a blow to them. The state-of-the art facility addresses all accessibility concerns for the disabled and was the key for the Screamin’ Eagles winning the bid to host the national tournament. It’s one of the few facilities in the country that has USPSA regulation lines painted on the court.
“I can tell you just from being involved in (the USPSA) a number of years and going to different places, this is one of the best facilities for power soccer,” Farmer said. “People always comment on what a great host site it is.
“I’m hoping it doesn’t come to (Mulberry Creek closing), but it’s something that’s on the table.”