BOYDS, MD. (June 15, 2013) - Before the kickoff of the Washington Spirit-Western New York Flash match Saturday night at the Maryland SoccerPlex, the teams, facility officials and special guests, including former U.S. National team forward and Washington Freedom star Mia Hamm, celebrated the naming of the SoccerPlex's Championship Stadium after women's soccer pioneer Maureen Hendricks.
"It's hard to imagine where women's soccer would be if not for John and Maureen, and their dedication to the sport," said Maryland SoccerPlex executive director Trish Heffelfinger. "Naming the field after Maureen is exciting because it's long overdue, and it's something we've wanted to do for a long time."
Hendricks and her husband John played a vital role in funding and organizing the creation of the Maryland SoccerPlex, which opened in October 2000. They wanted a place for their daughter, Elizabeth, and the rest of the community to be able to play on well maintained fields in a professional environment. John, the founder and chairman of Discovery Communications, was a catalyst for the initial planning, taking a leadership role in negotiations with the Montgomery County local government and Maryland Soccer Foundation.
The Hendricks family made sure Maryland SoccerPlex would be a regional parks with enough fields to qualify to host regional championships. Today it is home to 24 fields, and it has hosted nearly 60,000 matches, from youth, club, high school and college to the professional and international level since it opened almost 13 years ago. Maureen Hendricks Field is currently home to the Washington Spirit, one of just two natural grass fields in the National Women's Soccer League.
"For Maureen, it was a labor of love," said Heffelfinger. "She wanted it to be a place where kids came back to and remember the times they had ... We call them Saint John and Maureen, because you need a saint and an angel who have the passion to support something like this."
In addition to their role in turning the SoccerPlex into what it is today, the Hendricks' are greatly responsible for the emergence of professional women's soccer in the D.C. area and the rest of the U.S.
John and Maureen were visionaries for professional women's soccer leagues, and felt strongly about gender equity in sports. Following the wave of momentum for the sport after the 1999 Women's World Cup, they played a big role in the creation of WUSA and were owners of the first Washington Freedom franchise. After the league folded three years later, they helped bring back women's soccer with WPS and a new-look Freedom team.
Statements on Behalf of Maureen Hendricks
"The unwavering support of the entire Hendricks family, starting more than a decade ago, gave women's soccer a positive platform on which to grow. It is that kind of dedication which has given women's soccer such a great boost in our country and helped our sport accomplish some fantastic things. The Hendricks' surely changed my life and gave me the environment which has allowed me to achieve the things I've had in my career. My professional career started with the Washington Freedom and I couldn't think a more fitting honor than to dedicate this field to Maureen Hendricks, my former boss and now friend. Thanks for giving us our chance. We love and miss you." - Abby Wambach, Former Washington Spirit player, current U.S. Women's National Team superstar
"Maureen Hendricks has been a relentless supporter of Women's Soccer at all levels and especially women's professional soccer in the Washington area. She was a soccer mom first and a pro soccer franchise owner later but her passion and leadership has, without question, vaulted the game of soccer forward. This honor is so deserved and the "Maureen Hendricks" Field will be witness to many futureUSA stars. On behalf of soccer fans everywhere, thank you for your service to the game." - Tony DiCicco, former U.S. Women's National Team head coach
"It has been a rare privilege, not to mention a lot of fun, to have worked side by side with Maureen Hendricks on the SoccerPlex bringing it from an idea to a reality. It's widely known that John and Maureen Hendricks provided vital support through their generous financial contributions of the SoccerPlex, but few understand the equally vital role Maureen played behind the scenes in developing the initial idea, the planning, government approval, financing, construction, and early days of struggle. The countless hours of dedicated effort she poured into the SoccerPlex has resulted in an enduring resource for the children of Montgomery County, the State and the region. I am so pleased that the Board has chosen to express its gratitude to Maureen by naming the Championship Field in her honor." - Ken Salomon, former head of Maryland Soccer Foundation Board of Directors
"John and Maureen have been the most vital investors in soccer in the D.C. area. It is fitting to name the stadium for Maureen. Women's soccer owes the Hendricks' so much. I am glad we all will be reminded of this every time we play or see a match at Maureen Hendricks Field." - Jim Gabarra, former Washington Freedom head coach, current Sky Blue FC head coach