Fast Growing Futsal Sport Coming to Bell Gardens
A mini soccer like court is being built at Veterans Park.
By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer
In a city that can’t get enough soccer, a decision to expand the city’s sports program to include a type of soccer played on a smaller court with fewer players is being met with approval by local residents.
A $50,000 grant from the Bicycle Casino Community Foundation will help pay for the new Futsal court at Veterans Park, approved Monday by the city council.
Construction has already commenced at Veterans Park where a demolished handball court is making way for the futsal court. Futsal is played on a hard, flat surface instead of grass or turf. The field is also noticeably smaller; teams only field five players.
Chris Daste, Bell Gardens Recreation and Community Service director, told the council Monday that the sport is growing in popularity and requires a great deal of physical activity despite its very confined space.
“What makes futsal unique is that the ball used is very heavy so it develops dribbling skills and ball handling skills,” said Daste.
Bell Gardens, which in a study on obesity was shown to have one of the highest rates of childhood obesity, has in recent years invested heavily in soccer fields to encourage physical activity in the predominately Latino community, signing up over 2,500 children in soccer leagues.
The city went with the project because of the sport’s capability of building a foundation for soccer, said City Manager Phil Wagner. The closest futsal court is located in the city of La Habra, said Daste.
“In this community there isn’t enough room for soccer,” Wagner said. “This [court] gives an opportunity to some of the youth in the community who would not normally play on these leagues.”
The city submitted the proposal for the futsal court under the Bell Gardens Healthy Kids Initiate and was awarded over $45,180 by The Bicycle Casino Community Foundation to build the court, and an additional $7,000 for recreational programming.
Daste noted that the city will make sure that all the court’s time is “not dominated for programming,” so people not interested in the programs also have access.
“We were looking at doing something that would benefit more of the community and allow more opportunity for kids to play [soccer],” Wagner told the council. “If you go to the handball court most anytime of the day you wouldn’t see anybody, aside from people sitting down.”
Veronica Gonzalez, a Bell Gardens resident whose children use the park facilities, seems to agree. She told EGP that the handball courts were often not used by residents but instead attracted loiterers.
“I didn’t feel safe with it [handball court] there,” Gonzalez. “I’m grateful they’re making changes to the park.”
The handball courts were demolished last week to make room for the 8,200 square foot concrete futsal field. It’s similar in size to a tennis court, said Daste. The project calls for the installation of light fixtures and a fence around the court; most of the work will be done by city staff.
Electrical work temporarily shut power off to adjacent basketball courts, to the annoyance of Rudy Ramirez who told the council that every week for the past 35 years he and his friends have played basketball at Veterans Park.
The recent demolition did temporarily cut off lights at the basketball courts, acknowledged Wagner, who said lights should now be back on.
Cudahy resident Lisa Perez has been taking her children to Bell Gardens parks for years, and told EGP she looks forward to the futsal courts providing the opportunity for smaller children to start playing soccer.
“My city doesn’t provide it so I normally have to go to another city that does provide it,” she said. “That’s a benefit for the city because that means revenue from outside residents.”
Non-residents pay a higher fee to use Bell Gardens facilities.
Mayor Daniel Crespo said he used to enjoy playing handball and wondered if there are more residents who will miss the courts.
“This is new to me. I was not aware that there was modifications being done to the park,” he said. “I wish we would have known so that we could also survey to see if that is what the community wants.”
Wagner told EGP the handball courts were used very little according to city surveys. He said the council had previously received reports on the proposed modifications, but the confusion could be due to staff’s decision to move quickly on the project once it learned it had the funds to move forward.
“Anything that has to do with sports is always good for the community,” says Gonzalez. “It gives Bell Gardens more opportunities to keep us here so we don’t have to go somewhere else.”
The futsal court should be completed by April, according to city staff.Print This Post
February 27, 2014 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.