Bringing Sport to Chicago
Recently the Chicago Soccer Initiative announced its completion—a full year ahead of expectations—of 50 mini-pitches, now open at Chicago Park District locations across the city. The initiative—a partnership between Chicago Fire FC, Chicago Park District, Ken Griffin and the U.S. Soccer Foundation—was first announced in December 2017, with leadership funding from Griffin, Citadel founder and CEO.
Mini-pitches transform underutilized areas, such as vacant lots or empty schoolyards, into small, customized hard-court surfaces well-suited for organized soccer programs and pickup games. The mini-pitches are installed with lighting, fencing, goals, benches and more, providing a quality amenity for people of all ages to engage in soccer.
"Four years ago in Chicago, we announced that our team at the U.S. Soccer Foundation was going to dramatically scale our work by installing 1,000 mini-pitches and engaging 1 million children in underserved communities by 2026," said Ed Foster-Simeon, president and CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. "I'm thrilled that we have made great progress toward our goals, and it is thanks to partners like those here in Chicago who have worked alongside us to help more children in underserved communities benefit from all the social, emotional, and health benefits our game provides."
The 50th mini-pitch is now part of more than 450 mini-pitches that the U.S. Soccer Foundation has installed and opened nationwide on its path to create 1,000 mini-pitches by 2026. This initiative is dramatically expanding the reach of the foundation to improve physical and social youth development through soccer—providing greater access to the sport and exposure to the teamwork and leadership skills that it teaches.
In addition to bringing these new state-of-the-art places to play into neighborhoods across Chicago—with a large concentration of the mini-pitches in the city's south and west sides—partners have worked to increase access to free, high-quality programming on the mini-pitches and ensure that they are open for pickup play.
"The completion of the 50 mini-pitches across the city of Chicago represents an incredible milestone for the Chicago Soccer Initiative that began nearly four years ago," said Chicago Fire Foundation Executive Director Jessica Yavitz. "This initiative emphasizes the importance that our Club and partners, in the case of the 50th pitch, United Airlines, place on providing a safe place for the community to play soccer, create friendships and instill an active, healthy lifestyle."
To celebrate the completion of all 50 mini-pitches, the Chicago Soccer Initiative and additional partners will host an event in spring 2022.
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