On September 8, Houston Dynamo Football Club opened up two new mini pitches in Cloverland Park. The mini pitches are the fifth and sixth opened up as part of an initiative started in December, 2019 that will eventually see a total of 15 established throughout Space City by 2024.
The program, which was initiated by minority owner Ben Guill and former minority owner Jake Silverstein, is working in conjunction with the US Soccer Foundation and is intended as a way to introduce soccer into communities that might otherwise not have access to the resources necessary to play the beautiful game.
The Sept. 8th opening was followed by a Soccer Night Out event, the first organized by the club since Feb. 2020. Soccer Night Out is intended to serve as a fun and safe event for families and kids of all ages. This event served roughly 75 students from the neighborhood. As part of the event, Dynamo midfielders Joe Corona and Memo Rodriguez joined the kids, helping to run instructional drills before taking pictures and signing autographs at the end of the evening. For Rodriguez, giving back to his community is one of his favorite aspects of being with the Dynamo.
“It’s amazing. It’s something I always want to be a part of,” Rodriguez said. “I want to be in everything that we can do for the community because I’m a hometown kid and want to see the kids smile and be put in situations like this.”
In addition to the minority owners, former Dynamo defender DaMarcus Beasley is also a major player in the rollout of the mini pitches. Beasley, who has made Houston his adopted home, was a part of the initial conversations about the project and has been involved in every step of the process. For the U.S. soccer legend, getting young kids into soccer who might not otherwise have the chance is incredibly important.
“It’s something that every city needs,” Beasley said. “For the love of the game, this is what you want to see. You want to see kids come out here playing, no rules, it doesn’t cost any money. Just going out here and having fun learning the game and enjoying the game.”
In addition to the kids and the players, the event featured speakers such as Club President John Walker, City councilmember Carolyn Evans-Shabazz and Houston Parks and Recreation Department Director Kenneth Allen. For Walker, moments like this are perfectly in line with his vision for the Club.
“Our mission as a club is to provide championship level experiences, increase value for our stakeholders, and grow the game of soccer,” Walker said. “With these mini pitches that we’ve been able to build, we hit on all three. It’s really the trifecta for us.”
Overall, they are the 10th and 11th mini pitches Dynamo Charities have been involved in building. To hear from members of the community that use Cloverland Park on a regular basis, an addition such as the mini pitches is invaluable.
“It’s amazing that I can bring my kids out here and they have this to actually practice on, to play on, because it helps sharpen their skill and it brings them more to the love of soccer,” community member Joe Flores said. That’s what I love. And the fact that they built this here in the community for everybody to use and it’s free, is huge. It’s going to get a lot of use out of it and the community is going to love it.”
In addition to being open to the public whenever the park is open itself, the mini pitch will feature 44 weeks of scheduled programming in which coaches will help run clinics and games to help introduce the game of soccer and hopefully help grow the sport throughout the Houston-area. For more information visit houstondynamofc.com/charities.