Grant awarded for Doraville soccer mini-pitch

Doraville residents playing soccer in the park. Photos by Ashley Oglesby

The Doraville City Council members approved the soccer mini-pitch program proposed by Georgia Soccer and its partners at its Oct. 20 meeting.

Georgia Soccer will revamp Doraville’s Bernard Halpern Park, a neighborhood space with tennis courts, but no nets.

In a previous council meeting, the Doraville parks and recreation department proposed forging a relationship with Georgia Soccer and its partners to assist the city in building a successful soccer program.

The parks and recreation department recalled several instances in the fall season when it attempted to hold practices for a youth soccer league on the existing fields of Halpern Park and were limited in space because of the youth football team.

In a request to approve the mini-pitch agreement, Rip Robertson, Doraville parks and recreation director, said the mini pitches will give residents an area to play soccer without damaging the parks’ green space and assist the department’s efforts to provide children with the opportunity to play without being displaced by adults.

The grant awarded Doraville $40,000 to convert two tennis courts into soccer mini pitches, repair the fencing around the courts and install a five-foot fence to divide the two mini pitches.

The soccer mini pitches will be approximately 160 feet by 80 feet, the size of the existing tennis courts in Halpern Park. The turf of the soccer pitches will be made from AstroTurf to minimize the maintenance cost of the field. The turf also comes with a 10-year warranty.

Georgia Soccer Executive Director Greg Griffith said, “The reasons we’re doing these projects is to encourage soccer free-play and to encourage neighborhoods to create soccer mini-pitches for their constituents, because in cities like Doraville their constituents have changed with having new immigrants, Hispanics and immigrants from the Caribbean who aren’t that interested in playing tennis or basketball…”

Griffith began his tenure at Georgia Soccer in January. Upon being hired Griffith met with the Georgia State Soccer Association Board of Directors and told them of his interest to create a mini-pitch soccer program. Once he was given approval for the idea he met with the Arthur Blank Family Foundation and Atlanta Silverbacks owner, Boris Jerkunica for funding.

They both agreed to supply $100,000 each with the understanding that it would be used to build five mini-pitches.

The Doraville soccer mini-pitch is among the first projects.

This installation will coincide with the Halpern Park renovation project. The city of Doraville received a $25,000 federal land and water conservation grant that also will be used to repair the park.

The transition from tennis courts to soccer pitches could occur as early as this fall. The pitches will not be used for city recreation soccer, but rather for free play, much as with other park amenities.

Mayor Donna Pittman said she has always been supportive of the soccer pitch idea. “I think it’s a good organization that’s going to provide something for our kids,” she said. “I’d much rather see our kids playing soccer after school versus doing something that they should not be doing.”

Pittman said soccer increasingly has become as popular as football.

Doraville will be joining neighbors Sandy Springs, which received a mini pitch from the U.S. Soccer Foundation a few years ago, and Norcross, where Georgia Soccer is also looking at putting in a mini pitch.

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