StationSoccer opens at East Lake MARTA StationLocal children try out the new pitches during the grand opening of the new Station Soccer fields at the East Lake MARTA station in Decatur on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Decatur, GA — Soccer players of all ages can now take the field at the East Lake MARTA Station in Decatur. Soccer in the Streets, MARTA and others celebrated the opening of StationSoccer at East Lake on Friday, Oct. 27.
The East Lake fields are the sixth StationSoccer location. Adult pick up games are on the schedule already and about 350 kids have signed up to play at the East Lake Station.
The cities of Decatur and Atlanta, Atlanta United Community Fund, Georgia Power and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta held a community celebration and pickup soccer games hosted by Amazon to mark the official opening of StationSoccer at East Lake Station on Friday afternoon, according to a press release.
Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett told Decaturish that she was excited to see the fields open. The city began talking with Soccer in the Streets several years ago about bringing StationSoccer to East Lake.
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.
Garrett attended the opening of StationSoccer at the Kensington station last year. She had talked to Soccer in the Streets then as well and hoped East Lake would be next.
“I was really thrilled to see that we were the next in line,” Garrett said. “It makes perfect sense, I think, to have it this part in Decatur, part in the city of Atlanta.”
She was also happy to see the support from United States Sen. Jon Ossoff, MARTA and other organizations to make the project happen.
“I can’t wait to bring my grandkids here,” Garrett said.
The soccer fields will give kids in the city more places to play and adds another field for the city, she added.
“We’ve taken an underutilized parking lot and turned it into a play space,” Garrett said. “The hope is that this will bring kids together [who] may not know each other for fun, skills and to be outside.”
Elijah Miranda became the executive director of Soccer in the Streets in January, and one of the highlights of working with the organization has been seeing parking lots transform into soccer fields.
“I’ve seen firsthand the impact that these pitches make,” Miranda said during the opening event. “Soccer in the Streets understands that before it begins to offer any kind of services or programming in any community, it is more important to establish relationships and connection in those areas.”
The East Lake location aims to serve students from the Global Village Project, Villages of East Lake, Drew Charter School and Decatur Housing Authority.
“The building of those connections is so powerful, and it’s allowed us to have a greater impact in the communities that we serve,” Miranda said.
The Global Village Project also created the artwork for custom Breeze Cards, adding a personal artistic touch to this significant occasion. This partnership exemplifies Global Village Project’s dedication to empowering refugee girls through education and their impact on the local community, the press release said.
Miranda added during the opening event that Soccer in the Streets is in the supply business.
“What I’ve found through this work at MARTA stations, at schools, at parks, through communities is that at Soccer in the Streets, our greatest aim is to fill these space with join, with hope and with connection,” Miranda said. “Pretty soon these two soccer pitches will be filled with children laughing, children playing the game, they’re going to learn about resilience, They’re going to learn the value of playing on a team and working on a team. There’s going to be gardening demonstrations where they learn about healthy recipes for both parents and kids.”
United States Sen. Jon Ossoff provided about $1 million of funding to Soccer in the Streets to expand its StationSoccer programming.
“When they wrote to me and expressed their vision to take underutilized spaces across the metro region and convert them into safe places where young people can come and pursue mental wellness, physical wellness, learn this amazing sport, [and] make friends, I recognized what a transformative idea this was,” Ossoff said.
StationSoccer first opened at the Little Five Points station in 2016 and was the first soccer field to be located at a subway station, MARTA Chief Executive Officer Collie Greenwood said.
“We’re really pleased to be a part of this, to be a part of something that is reputational, to be part of something that MARTA can build for the customers and the communities in the area, for those living nearby to enjoy,” Greenwood said. “It’s great to be a part of a world-class statement and be part of a landmark for the world, FIFA, the World Cup and all of that, but it’s also really good to be contributing to something here at home.”
StationSoccer is a citywide project to create a network of soccer fields connected by MARTA, that will form a 10-station league that’s accessible by transit. StationSoccer has expanded to West End in 2018, East Point in 2019, and Kensington and Lindbergh Center in 2022.
MARTA and Soccer in the Streets are also planning to open four more StationSoccer locations ahead of the 2026 World Cup. Greenwood added that adding a new soccer field makes the others more valuable as well.
“It grows on the expansion of the program. It gives kids more places to go, and it gives the league more places to play,” Greenwood said. “StationSoccer in particular enables hundreds of our youth to travel with purpose to any of our 10 intended league of stations…These locations are there for the kids.”
The StationSoccer program will continue to expand with plans for fields at Doraville, Bankhead, H.E Holmes, and Civic Center rail stations completing the “League of Stations.”
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