© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

US Soccer Foundation donates 2 mini-pitches to underserved Cleveland neighborhoods

Rendering of mini-pitch
City of Cleveland
Ideastream Public Media
A rendering of a mini-pitch, two of which will be installed on Cleveland's East and West sides this summer.

The U.S. Soccer Foundation is bringing two new soccer facilities to Cleveland this summer.

The mini-pitches, ADA-accessible modular fields that include lighting, fences, benches, goals and locker storage, are part of the nonprofit’s goal to bring soccer to underserved communities across the country.

Cleveland’s mini-pitches will be constructed at Lonnie Burten Park in the East Side’s Central neighborhood and Halloran Park in Jefferson on the West Side. Both will be built on what are currently underutilized tennis courts.

The U.S. Soccer Foundation asked the city to select sites in diverse, low-income communities. The Division of Recreation selected two parks; one on the East and West sides.

“Everybody’s pretty excited about it,” Councilmember Danny Kelly said of his constituents, whose ward 11 will host one of the mini-pitches.

A 2011 national study found that more than 70% of Black and Hispanic communities do not have access to recreation facilities, as compared to 38% of white neighborhoods. U.S. Soccer Foundation’s goal is to help bridge that gap.

“I think these mini-pitches is going to be able to help get a space that has not been used to be developed, so we can use it as a space for something positive,” Ward 5 Councilmember Anthony Starr told Ideastream on Thursday.

Three-quarters of Ward 5, where Lonnie Burten Park is located, are Black. In Ward 11, 53% of the population is white, while Black and Hispanic residents each make up roughly a quarter of the population.

Starr, who grew up in Central, attributes much of his career success to his sports background and said he wants to make sure kids in his neighborhood have the same opportunity.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be soccer, but it’s a team sport: you learn how to deal with issues, you learn how to be a partner,” he said.

Cleveland City Council passed legislation Monday to accept the donation and begin preparing the sites. The fields are expected to be completed and open to the public by July 1.

The two Cleveland sites work toward the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s goal of building 1,000 mini-pitches across the country by 2026. Other sponsor organizations include Black Players for Change, Black Women’s Player Collective, Adidas and Musco Lighting. The fields will be branded with logos and hashtags representing the affiliated organizations, as well as the city’s logo.

Unlike regular soccer fields, mini-pitches keep the ball constantly in play with a rebound board system. Instead of grass or artificial turf, the hard-surface pitches will be made of acrylic typically used on tennis courts.

The city is responsible for installing two inches of asphalt in preparation for the modular units, as well as maintenance costs in the future.

Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.