New Soccer Field in Little Village Gives Neighborhood Kids a Place to Play
Families in Little Village now have a new public recreational space.
On Thursday, Aug. 29, representatives of Enlace Chicago, Beyond the Ball, Ald. Ricardo Muñoz and members of the community inaugurated a new artificial turf soccer field in the campus of Ortiz and Gary Elementary schools on 31st Street and Lawndale.
Two years in the making, the artificial turf replaced a shoddy and dangerous dirt field that was often the cause of injuries to the children that played in it.
“We remember how the field was,” said Alberto Juarez, principal of Gary during the inauguration. “It was very unsafe for the kids, there were a lot of rocks and kids didn’t want to play on the field.”
Jaime de Leon of Enlace Chicago saw a need for the field after seeing many neighborhood kids playing sports, especially soccer, in local parking lots and alleys.
“I noticed that every single open space in the neighborhood was being used by our kids to play sports,” he said. “I went to the suburbs and noticed all the beautiful soccer fields they have out there and I thought, why can’t we have a soccer field just like that in our neighborhood?”
De Leon sought the help of Rob Castañeda of Beyond the Ball and together they spoke to Ald. Ricardo Muñoz, CPS and the principals of Gary and Ortiz to get the support to fix the field. They received it, along with the support of LISC Chicago and the US Soccer Foundation.
“So many partnerships take place in this community to make sure that our kids and our families have safe places to play,” said Castañeda. “Historically in our neighborhood, this wasn’t a place where people played, it wasn’t worth investing in, but you know what made that change? Seeing [kids] playing.”
Those kids include Gary 6th grader Alex Ruiz, who prior to the new field used to go to the suburbs to play soccer.
“Me and my friends used to prefer playing on the cement because it was leveled,” he said. “But now a lot of the kids will be playing in this new field.”