Station Soccer coming to East Lake MARTA station in DecaturA crew works to install two mini Station Soccer fields at the East Lake MARTA Station in Decatur. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Decatur, GA — Station Soccer is coming to the East Lake MARTA Station in Decatur, and work has already begun to install the turf fields.
Soccer in the Streets hopes to open the fields within the next few months.
The project was in the works prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Decatur City Commission approved a plan for the MARTA station several years ago. Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill said, at the Sept. 25 city commission meeting, that the city conducted a Livable Centers Initiative study of the East Lake MARTA Station in 2018. The plan looks at several different uses for the north and south parking lots – one of those uses being Station Soccer.
Soccer in the Streets was established in 1989 and serves about 2,000 children in the metro Atlanta area. The organization has learned that affordability and transportation are the biggest hurdles in serving youth.
“Soccer in the Streets, an Atlanta metro region-based nonprofit, serves youth through soccer and life skills on and off the pitch,” Soccer in the Streets Strategic Projects Director Sanjay Patel said. “We came up with this model of taking unused spaces at transit stations and repurposing unused spaces into mini soccer fields and greenspaces for soccer as a youth development tool.”
The Station Soccer program began in 2013 and “is a city-wide community project built around a vision to create a network of mini soccer fields and more, anchored by MARTA transit stations in Atlanta,” according to the Soccer in the Streets website.
A portion of the north parking lot at the East Lake station is being used for two soccer fields.
“…That space on the north side is often being unused apart from things like Atlanta United games, but even in the corner where it will be, that space has not been used at all given the size of the parking lots at that station,” Patel said.
He added that Station Soccer has been intentional about making the space available to kids who normally wouldn’t be able to afford the pay-to-play soccer model.
Station Soccer will also add a community garden. Patel added that the community garden works well with Station Soccer’s work around education about healthy, active lifestyles, nutrition, and how to grow healthy foods.
“That was born through COVID with families telling us, especially in communities where there were food deserts, that they would like more community gardens in and around our fields,” Patel said. “In the future, we plan to bring a classroom to this site.”
Children who participate in Station Soccer will also be given a Station Soccer MARTA card to provide free transit to the players.
“I remember talking about this when we were doing the East Lake LCI, and it’s great to finally see it happen. I’m excited, especially about the access for all the kids and all the kids from other neighborhoods getting to play together,” Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers said.
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