GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Futsal fans will soon have a new place to watch and play the soccer game in Grand Rapids.
On Wednesday morning, the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority approved up to $337,000 in budget funds to transform part of a West Side parking lot into three outdoor futsal courts. The funding also covers adding some amenities and operating the courts for two to three years.
Futsal is a scaled-down version of soccer involving two teams of five players competing on a smaller field with a smaller ball. It is typically played indoors.
Contractors would resurface the northern section of DASH lot 9 at 250 Seward Ave. NW near Bridge Street. They would install a 12-foot fence around the play area and 5-foot fences around each court to prevent game interruptions and prevent balls from rolling into the nearby streets.
The plans also call for seating, temporary restrooms, goals and murals by local artists that share the culture of futsal, which was first popularized in South America.
“It’s a global sport and so I feel like we can showcase the diversity in Grand Rapids with the amount of people that play the sport and bring it here to downtown,” said Corey Mathein, project manager for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
Mathein said he has been working on this pilot program since he joined Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. in September 2022. He said the community has been involved in the process and he has collaborated with The Soccer Rebellion, which started in Grand Rapids and expanded with events in Philadelphia, Detroit and New York.
“So (The Soccer Rebellion is) trying to tap into this emerging sport here in Grand Rapids and kind of set the standard for America,” Mathein told the DDA.
Mathein said the courts would also give kids the opportunity to play without the pressure of a rigorous schedule or high costs that can come with some organized sports — a benefit that extends to residents of all ages.
“They get the opportunity to play this sport for free, meet new people, And then also I feel like it’s a great benefit of reimagining space downtown,” Mathein said.
The courts would be designed to be open to the public at all times. Mathein said the original goal was to have the space ready by August or early September, but he should have a more accurate project timeline when he talks to the contractors this week.
If all goes well with temporary courts over the next two to three years, DGRI would look to move the concept to a permanent location in downtown Grand Rapids.