GRANGER -- It came like a Christmas gift, soccer-style.
The Michiana Soccer Association will go on practicing in its Knollwood Fields -- nine acres where its kids have honed their soccer skills since 1978 -- thanks to a deal reached Friday.
Local car dealership owner Jim Basney stepped up to make it happen. He bought the property through a charitable organization he is working to set up, said MSA board member Christian Davey.
The MSA will lease it from that organization, Davey said, noting that Basney has been a longtime sponsor of MSA teams.
The practice fields on Adams Road, between Fir and Gumwood roads and next to the Knollwood Country Club, went up for sale in October. The MSA had been leasing it from the property owner, but the owner died this year and the owner's children were selling the land to clear out the estate.
MSA families and the board scrambled this fall to raise money to buy it, worried that it could be lost to a developer with other ideas for the land.
The group was aiming for $185,000 to buy the property themselves -- or at least enough to sign a mortgage. They've garnered about $40,000 to $50,000 in all, apart from Basney's purchase, Davey said.
The closing was on Friday.
Davey said the fundraising will go on to further develop these fields and to improve almost 40 acres that the MSA owns on Cleveland Road at the Elkhart County line, where it hopes to double the eight soccer fields currently there and to improve the dirt parking lot.
The Knollwood fields are among the MSA's handful of practice sites, though many of the MSA families live close to Knollwood.
Clare Roach, a parent who spearheaded the grass-roots fundraising efforts, thanked Basney for his support and said in an e-mail: "Thank you, too, to everyone who donated, made signs, hung posters, forwarded emails, called friends and otherwise advocated that these fields remain open for play. Our area will be a better, healthier place because of it."
Friends of Granger Paths, an organization that advocates for more multiuse paths in the community, advocated for saving the fields, too, seeing it as valuable green space in Granger.
WSBT News contributed to this report.
Staff writer Joseph Dits: