On October 27, Atlanta’s first Major League Soccer team Atlanta United launched their community initiative “Station Soccer” in Five Points MARTA station in downtown Atlanta. The initiative was started in efforts to expand on the existing Soccer in the Streets program in MARTA stations throughout Atlanta. In attendance was Atlanta United’s owner Arthur Blank, Atlanta United’s President Darren Eales, MARTA CEO Keith Parker, and Executive Director of Soccer in the Streets Phil Hill, all of whom took to the podium and spoke about the initiative.
Arthur Blank spoke about his passion regarding the Station Soccer initiative: “Soccer, as much as any sport in the world, and I would say including American football, really represents the best in terms of bringing out the kinds of habits, social interactivity, and physical activity we want to see young folks take part in.” In addition, it should be noted that Blank didn’t stray away from investing into a cause deemed righteous to him, as his Atlanta United Foundation gave MARTA a $96,000 grant for construction of the soccer field.
In conjunction with Soccer in the Streets and MARTA, Atlanta United has created the very first soccer pitch within a public transit system in the world. This mini pitch was constructed in the concrete plaza of Five Points station’s Forsyth Street entrance. Five Points’ mini pitch is about half the size of a regulation soccer field and includes nine rows of seating above the field.
Station Soccer is seen by its representatives as an opportunity to provide a gateway for youth of metro Atlanta to be introduced to the sport of soccer. Atlanta United, MARTA, and other community stakeholder believe that, by strategically locating the mini pitch in the heart of downtown Atlanta, this will remove some of the biggest barriers to entry for the city’s youth to play soccer, scarcity of access and transportation options. Furthermore, since the Five Points Station is the central hub of MARTA’s transit system, the station presented itself as the best common ground for youth from all over the city to come together.
The Soccer in the Streets initiative will lead to the expansion of mentoring programs, funding for leagues within Atlanta public schools, and creating competitive adult leagues. They have already been six Atlanta elementary schools that have received eligibility to build and expand soccer programs: Dunbar, F.L. Stanton, Scott, M. Agnes Jones Towns, and The Westside Atlanta Charter School.
In his concluding comments, Executive Director Phil Hill made onlookers aware of the fact that this is only the tipping point for Station Soccer by stating that, “It is our goal to build 20 of these grassroots facilities throughout the city.” It is fair to say that citizens of Atlanta have much to look forward to from Atlanta United’s initiative towards increased community involvement and expansion of Atlanta newest professional sport, soccer.