AUSTIN (KXAN) — Christie Ciccarello says soccer changed her life and she wants to give local kids a space to play soccer and help create that same positive change in their lives.
Ciccarello, a self-described “soccer mom” who owns her own realty company, says Austin is desperately lacking a lighted soccer park for children, families and those with special needs.
“I’m out on the soccer field every day with my kids,” Ciccarello said. “Driving to San Antonio, driving to Dallas, just every weekend you don’t know where you’re going to be.”
Frustrated by the amount of time her kids spent in the car instead of being on the field or spending time with family, she says she did some research and learned that there are very few sports facilities in Austin for young people.
So Ciccarello, a lifelong soccer player who competed on the University of Louisville team, founded BuildSoccer, a nonprofit that aims to bring communities together through soccer.
The group recently signed a long-term lease and partnership with the Marbridge Foundation — a residential community for adults with intellectual disabilities — to develop a stretch of land the foundation owns in south Austin, into a six-field soccer park.
Marbridge already offers 11 Special Olympics opportunities to their residents, and were excited at the chance to give them a space to play soccer.
“This opens up an opportunity they didn’t have growing up, so why not have it as an adult?” said Becca McPherson, the vice president of development for the Marbridge Foundation.
“The whole idea of bringing together the youth soccer community to the special needs community is a unique opportunity,” Ciccarello said.
But the park comes with a steep price and BuildSoccer is now actively seeking grants and sponsorships to support the $5 million-dollar park.
“We’re seeking grants,” Ciccarello said. “Just like with any startup, seed money is important. Nonprofits are just the same, with needing those early kick starts.”
The name of the park is available to potential sponsors. The group has big plans for the space with a variety of programming including the future Marbridge Foundation Special Olympics soccer team, after-school care programs, summer camps and group exercise clubs. Capital City Soccer Club, a local youth organization, will be the largest user of the facilities.
Ciccarello also says the park could provide opportunities for volunteer work for kids and adults.
“It allows our residents to participate in a soccer program which we currently can’t provide, it allows BuildSoccer to build a stadium where our adults can partner with to do concessions, be linesman, have social interactions, and do ground maintenance,” McPherson said.
BuildSoccer hopes the park will bring with it the opportunity to improve and unify the community. On the website, BuildSoccer says:
“We believe soccer can change lives no matter your ability level, income level or family situation.”
For more information, visit BuildSoccer.
Growth in Austin
According to BuildSoccer, there are over 100,000 registered youth soccer players and over 10,000 adult soccer players in Austin.
More television viewers watched the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Austin this year than in any other U.S. city, a big jump from the 2015 tournament during which the city placed 12th for total viewership.
Austin FC’s role in the Community
The incoming Austin FC MLS team is also getting involved with children in the area.
19 local players, 14 or younger, were selected for the first-ever Austin FC Academy Team. They will compete in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy against other MLS academies and other elite clubs across the U.S.