The United States Soccer Foundation announced on Monday the recipients of their Summer 2016 Safe Places to Play Grants. Two organizations in the area were named among the seven total: Street Soccer USA’s Philadelphia chapter, and the Borough of Bound Brook, NJ. The U.S. Soccer Foundation press release states, “Across the country, children in under-served communities face an acute shortage of safe places to play largely because there isn’t enough space in which to create them or funding to maintain them. Safe Places to Play gives kids safe and accessible areas to play by funding the costs of design, construction, surfacing and enhancement in these communities.”
I spoke with Lawrence Cann, CEO of Street Soccer USA, who was excited about the plans his organization has for this area:
“Street Soccer USA is planning the launch of two programs, one in North Philly at the site of the old Spring Garden school next to the Drexel Sheller Family Health Center. The other will be in Kensington and be operated in partnership with Kensington Soccer Club and facilitated by New Kensington CDC and Shift Capital.”
The first site Mr. Cann wants to start on is the one in North Philly. However, due to some red tape with getting approval finalized in time, they’ll likely begin working on their other site, in Kensington. “Late September is our ideal timeline, could be the beginning of October. That’s our target,” he said of when work could begin on one of the three sites in Kensington that he toured this past spring. The picture below is what their fields look like when complete:
As with many community improvement projects, the funding is not from a sole source. The U.S. Soccer Foundation grant is a start, but far from the only contributor.
“U.S. Soccer Foundation has funded the futsal style flooring for one of the field and the Street Soccer USA Board and Comcast Corporation have funded the remaining costs of the Street Soccer Court construction.”
“We had a tournament at the [Philadelphia] Museum [of Art] steps. And, a part of Comcast’s sponsorship was to contribute dollars toward our first community field.” There has not yet been a direct connection to the Philadelphia Union or Philadelphia Union Foundation, however, “We definitely worked with Sons of Ben, they’ve come out volunteered for us [at May’s Street Soccer USA Philly Cup). Ray Gaddis came out too, and while we have spoken to the Union Foundation, they have not been formally involved.” In addition to that, programming is supported by the Street Soccer USA Board, Street Soccer USA’s social enterprise, and ESPN Corporate Citizenship.
The fields will be used by the associated community centers for their scheduling, but will also be open to the general public at other times. Mr. Cann couldn’t give specifics as to exactly what the hours of operation would look like, but there was room in the design for lights. In closing, Cann said that the eventual goal is to have 10-12 such play areas in and around Philadelphia. The timeline on that pushes out a couple of years from now, but it’s exciting to know that this is more than a one-time occurrence for our home town.
Another area organization received a grant, as well. Bound Brook, NJ, about 70 miles outside of Philly, will be getting a safe place for their community’s children to learn the beautiful game. A representative for the Borough of Bound Brook could not be reached for comment at the time of this post.
Editor’s note: A previous version used the acronym “USSF” for U.S. Soccer Foundation. “USSF” usually refers to the United States Soccer Federation, which is not affiliated with this grant project.