What began as an inspired vision of a network of soccer fields around Atlanta’s major transit stations in 2016 has taken another forward pass with the announcement that two new community pitches for Station Soccer – West End are to be opened on Sept. 8 at 3 p.m.
The Aug. 15 announcement of the city’s Department of Planning and Design on behalf of the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta United Foundation is supported by the collaboration of MARTA and Soccer in the Streets, the non-profit that aims to empower underserved youth through sports-based training, character development, mentoring and job apprenticeships
Sanjay Patel, who brought the vision to Atlanta of connecting communities through developing soccer teams around MARTA stations as he witnessed along rail lines in his native England and who now serves as director of Strategic Projects for Soccer in the Streets, said in the announcement’s press release, “Collaboration has been one of the important aspects of bringing this project together. Through this initiative we look forward to building the first League of Stations here in Atlanta, growing the game of soccer and providing the skills along the way.”
“The train has left the station,” he added concerning the project’s ambitions which were launched when the first Station Soccer location was opened at the Five Points MARTA Station in 2016.
Key partners cited in the release for Station Soccer — West End include the Transformation Alliance as part of the Strong Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge, MLS Works, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Musco Lighting, FieldTurf, Deluxe Athletics, OxBlue, Kaboom and Hothouse.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms compliments the role played by the Atlanta United Foundation in the release. “Atlanta United has approached its commitment to the community with the same energy fans take to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on game day.” she said.
“These innovative pitches are more than a new environment for young people to learn to play soccer. Developing safe and welcoming spaces throughout the community for youth to engage in positive activities help our neighborhoods thrive and restore pride in underdeveloped areas of the city.”
Her enthusiasm is matched by that of Atlanta United President Darren Eales, who said that “The Soccer in the Streets – West End project represents the Atlanta United Foundation’s commitment to promoting positive change in Atlanta’s historic Westside communities.”
Jeff Parker, MARTA’s general manager and CEO, also underscored his support for the program by citing the success of the Station Soccer pilot at Five Point Station, while Phil Hill, executive director of Soccer in the Streets, praised the ability that “thousands of kids in Atlanta” will be able to participate in grassroots soccer because they’ll be able to access the pitches via MARTA.
The West End event on Sept. 8 will begin with a 5v5 youth soccer tournament at Station Soccer — Five Points starting at 10 a.m. Tournament winners will play in a final at the new Station Soccer – West End pitches following a dedication ceremony.
Plans for a public contest to create a Station Soccer logo also are underway. Submissions are to be posted online and the winner is to be selected by public vote. To vote for the new logo, go to the @soccerstreets Instagram page and “like” your favorite logo.