Field of Dreams

Soccer enthusiast makes unwanted land into field worthy of legends

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If you build it, they will come.

In a dump of an area near the Craig Waste Management Plant, Craig's Bill Sawer has constructed the foundation for the fields of his dreams.

He plans to build a giant soccer training complex, and when it is completed, soccer players from around the county, state and nation will come to play.

From land he purchased in 1993, the life-long soccer player been has slowly prepared the field for action.

The site is a place where the weeds are high, the smell of waste fills the air and the hard soil is full of bumps. It is certainly not the most ideal land for soccer fields.

But Sawer, whose vision has never been clouded with obstacles, sees the reality of the dream unfolding before his eyes despite the imperfect terrain.

He speaks of the potential soccer grounds with confidence.

"See back there," Sawer points out sitting on one of the fields, "That's going to be where the equipment storage rooms will be.

"That over there," he gestures again, "That's where practice wall is going to be."

Everything has already been planned out in Sawer's mind. The mental blueprint shows a picture of five total fields, each one named after famous soccer players.

The four fields will surround one dazzling field. The centerstage field will be the only pure green, carpet-smooth grass in the complex. That's where the champions will play.

"You have to earn your way onto that field," Sawer says.

The complex will also contain an all sand field as a tribute to the Brazilians who only play on sand and who also happen to be some of the greatest soccer players in the world. The sand field will fittingly be called Pele.

In all, Sawer has 23 acres of land to let his project blossom. In today's world, land is a prized commodity. But Sawer doesn't want to make a profit, only make his dreams reality.

"Two acres of land, the amount it takes for one soccer field, today could be made into a parking lot and making someone millions," said Sawer. "But that's not my goal. I bought these fields to preserve soccer and to always give people an opportunity to play."

Sawer grew up in Michigan and didn't have such opportunities. Giving people the chance to do what he never had is one of his motivations.

"I didn't even get a chance to touch a soccer ball until I was 26," he said. "My goal is to give as many kids the opportunity to enjoy the game, something I had never had."

Soccer has become more to Sawer than a game. It has become a way of life.

The walls of his house are filled with the legends of the game. He has shelves full of books, files full of coaching strategies and a palace full of memories.

Soccer has taken Sawer to the Fiji Islands, Brazil, Mexico, Norway, England, Jamaica, Spain and several other countries. During the peak of his playing days, he simply got up and left for six months to practice with different countries' national squads.

Now at 57, Sawer relishes in the fact that he can still play the sport, both physically and figuratively. Sawer's life is free enough to allow him to pick up the soccer ball any time he has the urge.

"Some people grow up, get jobs, get families and take on so many responsibilities that they can't do what they want, when they want," said Sawer. "I have none of that. I'm doing what I want to do everyday."

Sawer is a groundskeeper for both the Steamboat and Craig colleges working on fields at both places. He teaches a class at CNCC which allows him to coach the college team.

On his yearly salary, he would be considered part of the working poor. But by sacrificing luxury, he has become rich in other ways.

"I have made a list of needs, the true necessities of life, and a list of wants," said Sawer. "I always fulfill my needs and take care of maybe one want. Some people have a big list of wants, so they work hard to get those wants. Those people mostly work and don't play. I schedule my work around my play, not my play around my work.

Sawer has never been interested in having a demanding job or a big salary. His life has always been about chasing dreams.

Sawer's dream early on was skiing.

When he got out of the Navy at 23, he left everything behind, even college, to hit the slopes in Aspen and go against the best downhillers in the country.

It was through the quest to achieve his skiing dream that his passion for soccer developed. He began playing the sport at 26 as a way to stay in shape for the ski season, and he instantly fell in love.

Soon soccer became more important than skiing and a lot cheaper.

Then a funny thing happened. Others started picking up the black and white ball as well.

As a ski coach in Steamboat, he persuaded his skiers to play during the summer, also to keep in shape. And they got their friends to play. And their friends got their friends to play.

Pretty soon, Sawer was the head of youth soccer in Steamboat that was at least 150 strong.

By the time he left the ski town and moved to Craig in 1997, he had founded an American Youth Soccer Organization in Steamboat that had ballooned to over 600 participants.

Bringing soccer to kids has always been one of Sawer's biggest devotions. He says he has coached over 42 teams, 1000 kids in his career.

The soccer complex is a way that even when he's gone, he can continue to give.

But for now, with fresh soccer blood continuing to run through his body, Sawer volunteers his time to coach competitive and recreational teams throughout the year.

There is no winning in his coaching philosophy, only improvement.

"A lot of parents ask their kids, 'Did you win?' or 'Did you score a goal,'" he said. "My only concern is did you play. That is the most important. The more you play, the better you get."

Today, Sawer's fields host hordes of kids eager to play.

But if you build it, they will come.

The complex hasn't fully been built.

But it will. If you look deep enough into the vision, you can see it already has.

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