Excerpted from Fred Melo's article in the Pioneer Press, May 9, 2019:
The U.S. Soccer Foundation has approached St. Paul Parks and Recreation about the possibility of converting outdoor spaces in the city into mini-courts for futsal, which is a variety of soccer played on hard surfaces.
The foundation expects to receive funding from Target and Minnesota United, the professional soccer team, to install a futsal court at Hamline Park near Snelling and LaFond avenues, where it would replace a singles tennis court.
Another futsal court near the Linwood Community Rec Center on St. Clair Avenue would replace an outdoor basketball court.
In both cases, the courts would take the place of worn outdoor facilities that draw limited use.
“It’s early, so our next steps are to work with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to do community engagement and receive input from the surrounding neighborhood on their thoughts,” said Clare Cloyd, a spokeswoman for Parks and Rec.
Each futsal court would represent a donation of roughly $60,000 in installation costs, and the foundation is willing to work with local partners to provide free or low-cost futsal programs. Nevertheless, “upkeep would be required from our end,” Cloyd said.
Jonathan Oppenheimer, an organizer with Friends of Hamline Park, said he’s supportive of the proposal, in part because Parks and Rec — which maintains a considerable maintenance backlog — appears to be in no rush to improve underused tennis courts.
“They seem to be pretty clear: ‘You’re never going to get your tennis court repaved.’ We know that tennis court doesn’t get a ton of use,” Oppenheimer said. “Soccer is so big these days.”
The Parks and Rec systems plan recommends phasing out singles tennis courts, while installing dual tennis courts at high-use locations.
The neighboring playground at Hamline Park would be unaffected.
“It doesn’t change where we are in line to get our playground replaced or anything,” he said. “It’s using the existing tennis court.”