"I would have been so excited to play every afternoon after school."
"It would have been awesome."
"I would’ve wanted to be out here whenever I could."
"It would have been amazing."
Those were the words from four respective Crew SC players following the grand opening of the Eakin Elementary mini-pitch last week in Columbus' Hilltop Neighborhood.
The mini-pitch serves the Wedgewood community on the city's west side and is the Crew SC Foundation's eighth field development project overall. With scheduled programming such as the Soccer For Success initiative, as well as open play time, the state-of-the-art mini-pitch is a place for all community members to play, practice, and grow a love for the game.
"When I was growing up, I didn’t have a pitch like this, specifically designed for soccer, but it was like this pitch in the way that it’s a black-top, so this kind of reminds me of memories playing with schoolmates and teammates," said midfielder Patrick Mullins. "Caleb said it best today - it is where your dreams started and now these kids will have an opportunity to grow their dreams on this field."
Defender Alex Crognale recalled his fond memories of playing on a slant at recess and spoke on the uniqueness of the Eakin mini-pitch.
"I remember our elementary school, where we played recess was a slant, so you’d play and kick the ball and it rolls down the hill. So to have a place that’s so flat and enclosed where you can go and play in a safe place is amazing," Crognale said.
Crognale, a Homegrown Player, also spoke on the Crew Investor-Operator's commitment to the city of Columbus.
"We really can’t say enough. They’ve only been owners for five or six months and they’ve already done so much and invested so much so I am truly excited for the future and what it has to offer," Crognale said.
Defender Josh Williams, another Ohio native, reflected on the nature of the pitch as a safe place to play.
"It gives all these kids a chance to fall in love with the game and a safe place to practice, safe place where they can come and have training and games," Williams said. "To me, it just gives them another opportunity, another avenue to fall in love with the game and work on their skill."
Since becoming a professional goalkeeper, Jon Kempin has been interested in revitalizing under-utilized recreational surfaces, such as tennis or basketball courts, and said the Club's commitment to community initiatives, such as building pitches over the city, is a great way to connect on multiple fronts.
"I think that it shows that they care, I think that it shows that they care about the community and that they care about the fans and they care about the players," Kempin said. "To have them invested into Columbus and really wanting to keep the team here and keep growing the team and making it better really shows just how much they care and how good of people they are."
In partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Columbus City Schools, and Columbus Recreation and Parks, the mini-pitch officially opened on June 26 and is equipped with lights, so it can be accessed for day- and night-time activities.