KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Build it, and they will come. Just be aware they may scale the fence to get a head start on the fun.
On Tuesday, MLS WORKS and Sporting Kansas City opened two futsal courts on the grounds of Wyandotte High School, hosting an eight-team youth tournament capped by appearances by Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry and local stars Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler.
But Tuesday wasn’t the first time the local population put the state-of-the-art courts through their paces.
Construction was completed two weeks ago, and although an attempt was made to keep the courts unused until this week, neighborhood kids simply didn’t have the patience to wait.
“As soon as we put the goals in,” Sporting KC’s vice president of development Dave Ficklin said, “people were climbing the fence.”
When MLS WORKS and Sporting turned their attention to the corner lot, it was a pair of rarely used tennis courts in disrepair. On Tuesday, it was a hub of activity, with kids from the nearby YMCA and local soccer clubs competing for a tournament title eventually won by El Padrino.
The court will be used to host clinics and one-off tournaments throughout the year, but there are no gates and its main function will simply to be open for use as the community sees fit. Ficklin said the club had identified more than 30 similar tennis courts throughout the area, all candidates for the same treatment.
That’s potentially good news for Kansas City’s urban core, and for Sporting as well, whose logo was painted on each court, giving young fans a goal to dream about as they hone their skills within the chain-link fences.
“The best way to create great young players is to have them play in a small setting,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “…This is the first of what will be many courts that Sporting Kansas City is going to build throughout this region.”
To get things started, they chose what Kansas City, Kan., mayor Mark Holland called “one of the largest immigrant communities in the nation.”
The crowd in attendance reflected that, with both El Padrino and fellow finalist KC Toros boasting clear Hispanic influences. Encouragement from the crowd was almost exclusively in Spanish, and it was clear that this was a community hub that wouldn’t hurt for use.
“Soccer is the sport that unites the world. When we think of a sport that’s perfect for Kansas City, Kan., I think of soccer,” Holland said. “Whatever language you speak, whatever country you come from, soccer is big. I’m very excited to see it growing right here in the United States, right here in Kansas City, Kan.”