Before The Eddy was built into a state-of-the-art indoor soccer facility in Aurora, Colorado, it was as an empty AT&T call center for about 10 years. “You could tell it had been empty for a very, very long time,” according to Finn Ruehrdanz, the indoor facility manager. “It’s a very unassuming building, so when people come here for the first time, they definitely aren’t expecting anything like what they get when they walk in.”
The Eddy is home to the Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club and was built with the help of a Spring 2017 Safe Places to Play synthetic turf grant from the U.S. Soccer Foundation. The Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club uses the facilities for its club teams and offers opportunities for players three-years-old and older.
In addition to its club teams, Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club implements the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, which is offered free to participants and their families, and teaches nutrition and critical life skills in addition to soccer fundamentals. Because the Club runs Soccer for Success through local schools, participants are welcome to use the space at The Eddy.
Eleven-year-old Diego just finished his third season of Soccer for Success and uses the space at The Eddy every Saturday for two hours where he plays in Training Camp hosted by the Rapids youth club. "The coaches working with him are great and make him better in his play," says Uli Dahm, outreach program manager at the Rapids, noting that "because of the special possibilities and the coaches, [Diego] has improved a lot in passing and understanding the game. He has also found new friends in the program."
But the Rapids teams and programs are not the only members of the soccer community that have been able to use the indoor facility. For Curtis Gardner, the director of outreach at the club, The Eddy serves as a community gathering point.
"A lot of programming is open to greater community. Whether it’s futsal leagues, or drop-in-and-play soccer, or those Community Cup-style events…It’s truly open to anyone who wants to come in and use it."
One example of this is the Community Cup, a free event where mixed teams compete in a small-sided tournament and are coached by parent volunteers.
A big reason why soccer at The Eddy is so accessible to so many community members is because of its location. In fact, just a short 10-minute drive away from The Eddy is the local ECDC African Community Center which helps refugees and immigrants rebuild safe and sustainable lives in Denver.
“It’s amazing. We are so happy they opened,” says Yazan, who has overseen the youth programs at the organization. “It’s nice to have a place where people can go and play soccer and…foster interests in activities…that is not centered around social work.”
Another reason The Eddy increases accessibility is due to the fact that it’s an indoor facility. Because of this, the club is able to provide consistent, quality soccer programming to all players. “We never have to cancel for rain. We never have to take part of the season off for field closures or letting grass rest or anything,” says Finn.
Ten-year-old Almas, who plays on a Rapids youth team, says that The Eddy provides her with “a safe place to play soccer at night.”
The city of Aurora is notorious for lacking adequate field space. Locally, the demand for field space has increased due to the explosion of adult sports leagues. But with The Eddy, “we don’t have to compete with other organizations — youth and adults — for field space,” says Finn. “It’s just one other thing that had become a challenge for us and now, with the facility, it’s something that we own...We can manage all that stuff ourselves.”
Players like Almas take advantage of field availability at The Eddy. In addition to her Tuesday practices at the facility, she comes in on Fridays to do individual work. And her extra effort has paid off. “I have been able to train on my own time to improve my long shot and now I’m scoring beautiful goals from just past the midfield,” she says.
From a business development standpoint, The Eddy has brought the Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club’s 22 staff members closer to the pitch in a unique business set-up. “Outside of the facility itself, we also have our offices here,” says Finn, “so it’s kind of a one-stop shop for people. If they need something, they can come see the administrative staff or whoever it might be, and then they can stay for practice.”
Curtis contends that “when you consider the quality of these fields and just the soccer culture around this space, there’s no other place like it nearby.”
“A lot of those kids are going to find a way to play soccer one way or another,” he says, “but for them to come do it in a world-class facility, I think is something special for them.”
The Eddy was built with the help of a Safe Places to Play synthetic turf grant and provides a soccer space where everyone can play. Follow this link to learn more about the upcoming fall Safe Places to Play grant cycle.