Atlanta United announced the launch of the Atlanta United Foundation at the site of their first completed project, a soccer pitch at the Five Points MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) station. AUFC partnered with Soccer in the Streets and MARTA to create the first soccer pitch in a public transit station in the world.
Once the initial project was explained further, Eales went into detail on the Atlanta United Foundation during the press conference.
“It is an exciting day for Atlanta United to officially announce our commitment of service to the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia. When we took control of Atlanta United as a franchise, we had three key commitments. One of them was to foster community engagement. We want to be the heart of the community. We want to be apart of Atlanta and this wonderful state.”
Eales specifically mentioned breaking down barriers like access and transportation as the main outlook for the foundation’s support of the public transit pitches.
“We believe encouraging inclusion provides access to soccer for individuals who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to play on fields like this. It’s ultimately going to strengthen our sport and unify our city and state. What we’re trying to do is breed a foundation that will bring long-term success. That begins with programs like Soccer in the Station.”
The field at the Five Points MARTA station really is something that needs to be seen to be believed. A mini-pitch that is now open to the public and will play host to adult leagues, Soccer in the Streets executive director Phil Hill said that this is just the first step. “Living around the Mercedes-Benz Stadium are thousands of kids. It’s our goal to build these grassroots facilities, 20 of them throughout the city.”
Atlanta United President Darren Eales elaborated:
“The vision now is to replicate this field in other MARTA stations so that we can have a ‘station league’, so whenever you are on the MARTA line you will have the ability to play soccer. It’s an easy way to get rid of the transport barrier that keeps so many kids from playing soccer.”
A soccer league around Atlanta played in train stations? Sign me up. A spot on these teams could be a hot commodity.
Eales spoke further with Dirty South Soccer after the press conference to talk about the meaning behind the foundation’s logo.
“You’ll see that we have five panels that come off Georgia, which reflect not only the five pillars of our master plan, but also the five states that surround Georgia. The idea is we have the chance to be the club of the Southeast.”
It’s obvious Atlanta United is serious about being the soccer flag-bearer for the Southeast. With the Charleston Battery being the official affiliate club, Atlanta United hosting open tryouts throughout the region in cities like Charlotte, Birmingham and Nashville, and the announcement that came earlier in the week that Atlanta United will participate in the Carolina Challenge Cup in February, the club has made it a priority to extend its reach when it comes to the fanbase.
The Atlanta United Foundation also announced their first two grants, both of which were given to those organizations who helped bring the soccer pitch to Atlanta, Soccer in the Streets and MARTA. Soccer in the Streets has agreed to use the grant money towards introducing soccer to elementary schools in the Atlanta Public School system. Phil Hill stated, “We look forward to being a prideful, impactful presence in our community and share the beautiful game with a new generation of soccer fans here in Atlanta.”
When asked how he felt about the inaugural season drawing near, Eales admitted,
“I feel good, sometimes I wish we had more time but I think that’s always going to be the case. I think we’re set up well. We’ve tried to do everything we can to give ourselves the best opportunity, but we can’t be under any illusions. It’s not easy. As an expansion team, I’m challenging everyone to turn over every stone and try to get that extra 10% out of every avenue so that when we put it all together, we can be as competitive as we can. The last two years for me have been fun, but I can’t wait for the games to start.”
Neither can we, Darren. Neither can we.