By Mike Kinney
Was the next Lionel Messi at Wendell Park in Richmond today? Perhaps. Without a place to play, it’s difficult to give rise to the next great soccer star. But the underutilized local park at 24th Street and Wendell Avenue now has two mini-soccer pitches that will host leagues and foster talent.
A ribbon-cutting was celebrated today for the new mini-soccer pitches funded by the U.S. Soccer Foundation and Target in partnership with the city.
A youth soccer league called the ‘ Richmond-Rayados ‘ demonstrated how important the new mini-soccer pitches will contribute to the game, and ultimately bring additional life to Wendell Park, which in 2017 received a number of improvements, including a new playground, as part of a collaboration involving Target, KaBOOM!, Richmond Friends of Recreation, and the community.
Today, Councilmembers Nat Bates, Ben Choi and Melvin Willis spoke at the ribbon-cutting event for the soccer pitches. Target brought a team of 14 employees and their families to pass out mini soccer balls, snacks and drinks for attendees.
“I think it’s a great event for the community, especially opening up new parks like this one for youth to engage in more soccer programs,” said Maurice Range, sports programming coordinator with the City of Richmond. “This gives our kids another park to participate in and play in. They can actually form soccer leagues out of this park now, as before there was nothing here.”
The fields were completed in late August.
“One of the greatest barriers to our sport is the lack of safe places to play,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, in a statement prior to today’s ribbon-cutting. “We’re excited to partner with Target and the City of Richmond to bring this new mini-pitch to Wendell Park so that more kids and their families can have a safe place to play the game and develop critical life skills that will help them on and off the field.”
Target’s partnership with U.S. Soccer Foundation aims to build 100 soccer play spaces in communities across the U.S. through 2020. Target is investing $14 million in the youth soccer initiative.