Nearly four months to the day following the unveiling of details on a new state-of-the-art mini-pitch to be built at Eakin Elementary in the Wedgewood community of Columbus' Hilltop Neighborhood, the Crew SC Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Columbus City Schools, and Columbus Recreation and Parks, officially unveiled the Club and City's newest field development project on Wednesday, June 26.
"We are here because of the efforts of the community," said Crew SC President Tim Bezbatchenko. "This field marks as an example of Columbus Crew SC's commitment to the community."
Along with Bezbatchenko, those attending the ceremony included, Crew SC Head Coach Caleb Porter, Columbus City Councilmember Elizabeth Brown, Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon and U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Safe Places to Play Director Alex Bard.
Following the ceremonial first-kick, children participated in soccer activities on the new pitch, with Crew SC players Alex Crognale, Jon Kempin, Patrick Mullins and Josh Williams serving as coaches in addition to signing autographs and posing for pictures.
The new mini-pitch creates a place where the children around the Wedgewood community can work to make their dreams a reality.
"This is a field of dreams," Porter said. "Inside all of our first team players was a young boy with a dream of being a professional soccer player. And that dream played out in their neighborhoods and in their communities. It is going to be no different than anyone else who plays on this pitch. This field is an opportunity and a dream."
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.
"You need no level of soccer skill to know the impact that soccer has on a community," said Brown. "This field will provide the community with a safe place to play and create a sense of belonging.
With its completion, the mini-pitch will host Soccer for Success, an after-school program funded by the U.S. Soccer Foundation that helps promote a healthy lifestyle.
"Soccer can be a difference in a child's life," said Bard. "Through soccer, they learn critical life skills like teamwork, perseverance, and self-confidence. These skills help them succeed on the field, in the classroom, and throughout their lives."
This new mini-pitch provides the group with opportunities to be exposed to new opportunities and experiences.
"Exposure changes expectations," said Dixon. "Here is an opportunity in this community to expose our students to this field. I am proud of the opportunities our students have with this mini-pitch."
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.
Notably, the Eakin Elementary School mini-pitch is the Crew SC Foundation's eighth field development project.