'Where the dream starts' — St. Louis City SC opens first mini-pitch in Fairmont City
St. Louis City SC opened its first mini-pitch in Fairmont City on Thursday night to a crowd of a few hundred in the Metro East community.
With a hard surface, lighting, walls surrounding the field of play and chain nets, the pitch will serve Fairmont City for a long time, said Mayor Mike Suarez.
“This is just amazing,” he said. “It just makes me smile.”
The Fairmont City mini-pitch is one of 11 planned across the St. Louis area. They are funded by the professional soccer team, American Family Insurance and the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Construction also finished at a small field in DeSoto Park north of downtown St. Louis this month. Next year, City SC will begin construction on a field in Ferguson.
The other locations are still to be determined, said Barbra Silva, City’s director of community relations. She said the remaining eight locations will be announced over the next two years.
“This could be for children. This could be for adults that play pickup soccer,” Silva said. “It doesn't matter what age you are. It’s just the location for you to be able to play soccer safely and be accessible.”
Silva said there are few additional perks to the new pitch. Maintaining grass takes a lot of work. Because it is a hard surface, it won’t require maintenance, can be played in all kinds of weather and can be used by those in wheelchairs, she said.
From City SC’s vantage point, Silva said the organization hopes the playing surface will help grow the sport in the same way that it’s grown in Europe, South America and Africa, “where soccer is part of the makeup of the community.”
City SC defenders Josh Yaro and Kyle Hiebert, along with midfielder Célio Pompeu, told the crowd they were all jealous of the new pitch.
“If I have those fields, those things in Brazil when I was young, this is nice," said Pompeu, who goes by his first name, Célio. “This is where the dream starts.”
Hiebert, a native Canadian, said his neighborhood park had a goal — but no net.
“I had two balls. If I didn't hit the crossbar, I was running to go chase my ball and come back,” Hiebert said. “So a pitch like this is a privilege, and it's amazing to see so many kids are taking advantage of that.”
In Fairmont City, a majority Hispanic community of more than 2,000, soccer ties run deep. Suarez said the village started its own youth soccer program in 2015 with 20 participants.
Now, the program has ballooned to 150 players — with some coming from a variety of surrounding communities. With the new pitch and new youth program from City SC on Thursday nights, Suarez expects the demand will only increase.
“There’s going to be kids out here getting the best training that money can buy — and it’s free,” Suarez said.
Nine-year-old Carson Munoz, who was suited up with his 8-year-old friend Connor Wheat, in bright yellow kits, said he approves of the new pitch.
“I like it because I can come here like every day because I don’t live far,” Carson said. “I can just play here with my friends and goof around.”
Connor said he liked the City SC logo on the pitch and the new look. And just like Célio told the crowd earlier, Carson said the new field will help the players practice so they can dream big.
“We’ll go to the MLS, the Premier League, La Liga and then the international cup,” he said with a smile.