a soccer ball on the grass
Photo by Philipp Brügger on Pexels.com

Earlier this week, a new mini-soccer park was proposed to the Middletown Town Council on West Main Road. Although council members said the location likely won’t work long term, there was significant interest in the project somewhere else suitable in Town.

On their website, the Town Of Middletown shared the following news about the project;

New Mini Soccer Park Could Be On Horizon

Middletown might be getting a new mini-soccer park — at no cost to the community.

At a meeting earlier this week, two representatives for the Middletown Youth Soccer Club approached the Town Council, asking to use the Pottsy Field softball complex for the project, which is billed as the wave of the future for soccer.

Because that property is part of ongoing plans to redevelop the entire area into a new town center, council members said the site south of the Middletown Public Library at 700 West Main Road likely won’t work long term. 

But that doesn’t mean that other potential locations such as the fields north of the Oliphant administration building, the rear parking lot at Gaudet Middle School, one of the beach parking lots or another location couldn’t work.

In response, council members said they liked what they heard and wanted input from the Town’s Open Space & Fields Committee before deciding what to do next. 

“I think it’s a great idea,” council President Paul M. Rodrigues said. “And anything we can get for our kids to do or any other type of activity that can happen there. There’s just not enough for kids to do here, on the island.”

According to UrbanSoccerPark.com, mini soccer — or five-a-side soccer — has grown exponentially and is responsible for developing the skills of some of the world’s foremost players.

The company’s website credits mini soccer with helping introduce Messi, Neymar, Pele, Ronaldinho and Maradona to the game of soccer, right in the neighborhoods where they grew up.

UrbanSoccerPark.com noted because the sport is played on an 80 foot by 50 foot artificial turf pitch surrounded by walls, it’s much easier to locate in densely developed areas than a regulation FIFA soccer field, which is 345 feet by 222 feet. 

Jim Gibson and Tom Loughborough of the Middletown Youth Soccer Club said the closest facilities where local youth can play mini soccer are both based off Aquidneck Island. They also require kids to pay to play, something that’s not planned for new Middletown operation, should it be built.

They said the soccer club was in the process of getting charitable donations to pay for the new facility. But before they got too far down the road, they said they wanted to have a secure location to put the modular mini soccer field.

Because it has radiant heating under the artificial turf playing surface, they said local youth could use the field year round.

“We’re trying to build the idea of a centralized location where kids can bike to the location,” Loughborough said. “In order to find fields like this, you need to leave the island…and all those options are pay to play.”

The fields — which are about the size of two basketball courts — would be powered by solar energy and not need an electrical hookup. They said the field and all the infrastructure took a week or two to put together and break down.

“It’s pretty low maintenance,” Loughborough said. “We’d like to create an off (the power) grid solution so it’s completely self sustaining.”

The council mulled the idea of having the mini soccer operation in the Pottsy Field parking lot for the coming season and while working on finding a more permanent location. Longterm, Rodrigues said that area along with the former Navy Lodge, library and former Kennedy School was pretty much off the table. For more on that project, see https://www.middletownri.com/DocumentCenter/View/3045/November-2021-Middletown-Today?bidId= here.

“We have a proposal to develop all that which would generate revenue for the Town of a $1 million a year,” Rodrigues said. “It would be a source of revenue and done right and nice. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. The chances of it going there are probably next to nil right now.”

“The rest of the world develops their talent in this manner,” said Gibson, noting the success of the Gaudet Middle School boys soccer squad. “Short sited, street soccer.”

If all went according to plan, organizers said they’d like to have the new field in place and in use by November. The field could also be used by lacrosse, field hockey and other outdoor sports.

“Our preference would be to stay in any one location as long as possible,” Loughborough said. “We’d like to create a groundswell, to minimize costs, etc.”

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