- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Knee-deep water on some of the Burns Park soccer fields in North Little Rock won’t stop a regional soccer tournament expected to bring more than 10,000 people to central Arkansas in two weeks, city officials said this week.

The U.S. Youth Soccer Southern Regional Championships kick off June 19 and run through June 25, with games scheduled on 17 fields at the Burns Park complex. Players from Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and a handful of other states are to compete.

North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith said heavy rain over the last two weeks caused flooding at many of the fields. Several were under knee-deep water earlier in the week, he said.

“It’s our belief that if the water goes down by Saturday, we’ll have at least 13 of the 17 fields,” Smith said. “The cleanup is extensive because of all the debris and the silt that was brought into the area. If the weather cooperates … Mother Nature will dry it out. Then we’ll just have a huge cleanup job.”

Smith said several departments have already committed to helping workers from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department clear debris.

The tournament’s Texas-based organizers said they were working closely with a local organizing committee, which has met with parks officials for regular updates and is working with volunteers and others to help with the cleanup plans.

Don Bohnet, the Southern Regionals Tournament director, said the group has contacted other soccer complexes in the greater Little Rock area as a contingency plan if any of the fields are too wet for games.

“The fire department will be out to Burns Park to spray off roads, parking lots and cart paths. Other city departments will be out at Burns Park for complex readiness,” he said, noting the city has been “all hands on deck” to restore the fields.

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This story has been corrected to show that the tournament begins June 19, not next week.

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