BY ROBERT ELKIN | Four players from the New York Red Bulls recently came to help break ground for a new mini-pitch in the East Village to be used for soccer and other sports.
The park, which already contains basketball courts, is between E. 11th and 12th Sts. east of First Ave. The new field is hoped to be ready by later this spring.
In addition to soccer pros Mike Grella, Andrew-Jean Baptiste, Connor Lade and Sean Davis, also in attendance was Marc de Grandpre, the general manager of the Red Bulls.
This field, though not regulation size, will certainly help promote and build soccer in the neighborhood as the popularity of the “beautiful game” continues to rise in the city with a new pro team, New York City FC, now playing home games in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium as of this past Sunday.
The Red Bulls were also joined by Ed Foster-Simeon, president and C.E.O. of the U.S. Soccer Foundation; Mitchell Silver, commissioner of the city’s Parks Department; staff from the neighboring East Side Community High School, including its principal, Mark Federman; Monique Flores, senior program director of University Settlement’s Beacon and Cornerstone afterschool programs; and Councilmember Rosie Mendez and C.B. 3 Chairperson Gigi Li.
East Side Community High School uses the existing outdoor sports facilities during schooldays and on weekends. A youth soccer team that practices inside the school, however, must travel for its home games. When completed, the new field will also be available for use by community members.
“I think that we’ll be able to go by the summer,” Coach Louis Azar of the Beacon Program said of when the field will be up and running. “We asked for a better place for the kids to practice. We had no other choice where they would go.”
Flores spearheaded the process for getting money for the project from the U.S. Soccer Foundation. The foundation, in turn, helped bring in the Red Bulls as a co-sponsor.
“Soccer is really exciting for our Beacon program,” said Amanda Peck, the University Settlement’s assistant director for external affairs and donor relations. “We run the Beacon program out of this school,” she said of East Side Community High School.
“For two and a half years we’ve been asking people in the community so we can help fix the field, so we can have competition,” Peck added. “The Parks Department, along with Community Board 3 and the City Council were all very supportive.”
At the groundbreaking event this past Monday, the kids of course got autographs from the pro players, who said they were very impressed by their skills in the sport.