Last summer, the city of Atlanta celebrated soccer in the form of its new stadium, home to Atlanta United FC. This summer, the city has another reason to celebrate soccer.
With the backdrop of MLS All-Star week and as a part of the effort to build 100 Safe Places to Play by 2020, Target and the U.S. Soccer Foundation unveiled the first of 10 Atlanta mini-pitches on Monday at Anderson Park with a ceremonial first kick, dedication ceremony, and community day.
Members of the local community gathered with Target team members, leaders from Major League Soccer, MLS All-Star players, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, and the Atlanta Parks & Recreation Department to celebrate the first of 10 new community play spaces that will open across Atlanta throughout the month of August. With a live DJ at the event, community members were able to participate in All-Star themed soccer activities, interact with MLS All-Star players, eat food from local food truck vendors, and participate in giveaways.
During the dedication ceremony, U.S. Soccer Foundation President & CEO, Ed Foster-Simeon, spoke to the importance of creating places where everyone can play. “Communities need safe places for their children to play,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that, one day, a child who is playing on one of these mini-pitches will be interviewed on television at an All-Star game or MLS game and say ‘I got my start on a neighborhood pitch.’”
Senior Vice President of Marketing at Target, William White, echoed these sentiments. “For me personally as an Atlanta native,” William said, “I am really excited about what we are doing here today – supporting the community. And so, it is an honor for me, on behalf of Target, to unveil this soccer pitch."
Pete, father of 10-year-old John, is glad that the local community has a new play space with more to come. "I think it's great that [Target and the U.S. Soccer Foundation] are creating little fields for folks that maybe don’t have access to the soccer clubs that others might," he says. "It’s an easy game to play – all you need is a ball."
The event also allowed attendees to reflect on the growth of the sport in their own backyards. "Ten years ago, I didn’t see many people playing soccer," says Mateo, father to 12-year-old Miguel. "But now, it’s everywhere.”
Kirk, who runs the soccer program at Wade Walker Park YMCA, agrees. "It's just catching on like wildfire and I think it's awesome."
Parents, players, and community members alike eagerly await the opening of the rest of the Atlanta mini-pitches over the next several weeks. "I think the notion of having these kinds of venues to play soccer is extremely important in the neighborhoods because you’ve got to have grassroots efforts [and] something that’s free to really get the kids interested in soccer," says Kirk.
The rest of the mini-pitches will open across Atlanta throughout the month of August during events led by Target team members.
Adams Park (two mini-pitches)
Center Hill Park
Isabel Gates Webster Park
Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club
South Bend Park
Southside Park (two mini-pitches)
These 10 mini-pitches in Atlanta represent the latest development in the U.S. Soccer Foundation's movement to make soccer #EveryonesGame. It is with partners like Target, along with adidas, Major League Soccer, and Musco Lighting, that we are able to work towards our goals of building 1,000 Safe Places to Play and engaging one million children annually in Soccer for Success by 2026. Learn more at itseveryonesgame.org.