The Cainhoy Athletic Soccer Club has filed a lawsuit in an effort to force Mount Pleasant to give the Berkeley County-based youth soccer program access to the town’s soccer fields.
The suit names the town of Mount Pleasant, Mayor Linda Page, all members of town council and recreation department director Ken Ayoub.
The Cainhoy Athletic Soccer Club, founded in 2008, has about 900 members, 700 of whom have Mount Pleasant addresses, said club president David Tunesi. He said the club is the ninth-largest youth soccer club in the state. The Mount Pleasant Recreation Department has approximately 1,500 members in its youth soccer program.
Tunesi said the Cainhoy club needs access to more fields.
“Over the years we’ve asked Mount Pleasant to use their fields and they have denied us access,” Tunesi said. “The primary reason for denial of access is an exclusive agreement they have with another soccer operation that basically prevents them from considering any other request for use.”
The other soccer operation is United Soccer Academy Mount Pleasant, which until this year was called South Carolina United Mount Pleasant. In 2011, the town of Mount Pleasant and Soccer Academy Mount Pleasant reached an agreement that essentially shut out other junior soccer programs by not allowing them to use Mount Pleasant Recreation Department facilities.
Tunesi said the Cainhoy Athletic Soccer Club has applied every year since 2011 for access to Mount Pleasant fields and gets denied every year.
“We decided to send that denial to our legal counsel who felt we had a position to file a suit based on equal protection,” Tunesi said. “The basis of the complaint is equal access to the fields. They haven’t got room and I certainly appreciate that field access is scarce and in high demand. But an exclusive agreement with a specific organization is not, in my opinion, a valid reason for denial.”
Ayoub said the lawsuit is in the hands of the Mount Pleasant legal staff. He said USA Mount Pleasant operates the travel soccer component in Mount Pleasant while the town’s rec department operates the recreational aspect. Ayoub said the town has nine fields that are used exclusively for soccer along with others that are used for soccer, football and lacrosse.
Mount Pleasant attorney David Pagliarini said the town’s belief is that the lawsuit is without merit but “unfortunately, it’s going to cost the town money.”
“We don’t treat private groups differently,” Pagliarini said. “As a practical matter, we can’t accommodate everyone. The bottom line is there’s simply not enough space for every team.”