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PITCH BLACK: Parents take concerns to the county after lights go out on Immokalee soccer pitch

Posted at 12:50 PM, Feb 22, 2024

IMMOKALEE, Fla — Last Friday when the lights went out at the Immokalee Sports Complex, parents said around 300 kids were playing soccer. Parents took their concerns from last week's game to the county for answers.

Erika Velasques' children play soccer for the Immokalee Soccer Pit. She said last Friday at 9p.m. the game looked different.

"It went pitch black. We heard kids screaming. Parents mad trying to find their kids making sure everyone was okay. It was just a chaotic mess," Velasques described.

Manny Touron founded the club and has coached in Immokalee the past thirty years. He also coached Velasques when she was growing up.

Touron said, "The fear of parents not knowing why the lights would go off and was there more than somebody switching the lights off is there anything happening." He added, the dark also created safety concerns for a coach who uses a wheel chair.

The Collier County Parks and Recreation Department shared this statement with Fox 4,

"During the opening night of our sport partner's league, an inadvertent error occurred when one of our employees mistakenly turned off the lights...We view this incident as a valuable learning opportunity."
Collier County Parks and Recreation

At the Collier County Parks and Recreation Advisory meeting Wednesday night, players and parents came out to talk about what happened. Collier County Parks and Recreation Director Olema Edwards directly addressed the situation.

She said, "What happened last Friday should not have happened, and I take full responsibility for that."

However, Touron said this issue is just another on the list. This field is one of few in town his club can play at. He said he’s been trying for years to get the county to build more fields. He also added, his club waitlists players because they don’t have enough space to play in town.

"Immokalee seems most of the time to take a second and third place to everything else," Touron said.

More than 100 people showed up at Wednesday’s meeting and the conversation grew from lighting, parks and streets to schools in Immokalee.

"Immokalee is a part of Collier County. We deserve to have the same as everyone else."