Today in a special community announcement, Columbus Crew SC released details on the unveiling of a state-of-the-art mini-pitch to be built on the grounds of Eakin Elementary School, which serves the Wedgewood community in Columbus' Hilltop Neighborhood.
Funded by the Columbus Crew SC Foundation and in partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Columbus City Schools, and Columbus Recreation and Parks, construction of the mini-pitch is scheduled to break ground in early Summer 2019, with the scheduled opening date set for mid-to-late Summer 2019.
“We want to develop multiple pitches in multiple communities; this is just the first example," said Investor-Operator Dr. Pete Edwards. "Going forward this is going to be a big push for us. I just spoke with the president of the School Board for Columbus and he said we have 109 schools. And I said, ‘well then let’s get pitches in all of them.’
"But seriously, we want to provide an environment for kids to be active and to engage because we think that makes them better students and happier people, and we’d love to be able to provide an opportunity, not only for the school but people around the school to do that."
The mini-pitch is a new prototype that is unlike most others seen around the country and is open to all members of the community. Constructed with lights, the mini-pitch will be available for daytime and nighttime activities.
Crew SC Investor-Operator Dee Haslam spoke about how giving back is one of the three core tenets of the Club's mission, and what it means to provide kids with an engaging activity.
“Today is very exciting for us, because that 'give back' piece is very important, and we believe there is no better way to give back than to keep kids active and engaged in school," Haslam said. "It’s said over and over again that children who are involved in athletics or arts or music, or something that engages them, are better students and they attend. So being able to provide an athletic field that is going to be so important to the growth of these kids is extremely important to us."
Notably, Haslam applauded the Save The Crew movement and wanted to dedicate the field in its name.
"And because it's such an important first field for our families and the foundation, we want to dedicate it to the Save The Crew movement. They were so vital in getting us to where we are today and I just want to thank the Save The Crew effort and dedicate this field to them."
Following its completion, the mini-pitch will host Soccer for Success, an after-school program funded by the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Offered free to participants, Soccer for Success is meant to help kids establish healthy habits and develop critical life skills through trained coach-mentors and family engagement. The program provides each participant with one uniform and one ball, with programming scheduled for 75-90 minutes per day, three days a week for 24 weeks per year.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the programs we’ll have on this mini-pitch and others around the community," said Club President Tim Bezbatchenko. “The one thing I’ve noticed…is not just how proud Ohioans are, but how proud people are to be from Columbus…Proud to be from here and time to pull together as a community to make more memories.”
Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp, who grew up on the east side of Columbus, spoke on what it means to see the Club invest back into the community.
"I think this is a beautiful way to step into the community and show commitment and show a club that wants to bring the sport of soccer to the people," Trapp said. "And there's such a wealth of soccer players in this city, it's amazing, and the more we can discover and uncover them, the better all of us will be.
"But the fact that, as what Dee and Pete were talking about, that the pillars of what this Club is now about is, yes, on the field, yes, innovating and growing from a business perspective, but the giving back aspect is so key, and to be already from Day 1 to be putting something forward is a great precedent to set."
As part of the panel, Columbus Recreation and Park Director Tony Collins spoke on the initiative and its significance to the community.
"Our recreation and parks department is about connecting people to our community through the power of nature, wellness, and creativity," Collins said. "And this program, the Soccer for Success program, and this new pitch that we’re going to be able to play on and program throughout the future here is going to do just that. It’s going to connect kids to opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Notably, the Eakin Elementary School mini-pitch is the Crew SC Foundation's eighth field development project.