Soccer aficionados of all ages can now go out for quick dribble across the newly installed futsal courts at Lennox Park and Col. Leon H. Washington Park in the Florence Firestone section of Los Angeles.
The futsal courts are a popular fixture in South America and Europe where soccer is king. But in the U.S., it is a relatively new phenomenon. Thanks to changing demographics, where there were once football fields, now there are pick-up games of soccer happening.
And so, in coordination with the Department of Parks and Recreation, the LA84 Foundation and the office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a total of four enclosed turf futsal courts measuring a quarter of the size of a regular soccer field, where installed.
The courts, which are outdoors, are the first of their kind operated by the Department of Parks and Recreation. Groups will be allowed to reserve the area for tournaments, corporate events, clinics and pick-up games. The fields are open to the public and will be free, however there will be a low cost fee beginning in the fall.
“We are thrilled to provide soccer enthusiasts in our communities with modern facilities that offer yet another new way to enjoy the game they love,” said Russ Guiney, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. “We expect these courts to be in high demand, providing enjoyment and healthy recreation for our patrons for many years to come.”
The game was developed in Brazil and Uruguay in the 1930s and 1940s as a solution to the lack of available soccer fields. It is usually played indoors on a hard surface. In the U.S., it is also called speed soccer and an official league was established in 1985. Futsal is fast and action packed, with lots of scoring and only five players on each side.
Rosie Gonzalez, a 19-year-old professional soccer player who grew up in Hawthorne and played at Lennox Park, said she wished she had these courts growing up.
“I used to play on these fields and it looks so much better now,” she said as she signed autographs for eager youngsters waiting in line on a recent weekend when the fields were inaugurated. “Futsal is faster. You work on your speed, touch and agility.”
Bryan Luna, a 10-year-old midfielder for the Blue Sharks soccer team said he was excited to try out the new turf.
“It’s shorter, so it’s cool,” he said as he scoped-out the field. His mother, Eva Luna, was also grateful for the clean and well-kept area where she could relax with her two kids.
“I think this is great,” she said. “We like to come here in the afternoons and have picnics.”
For Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the renovated parks are a welcome addition to the community but also part of a larger effort to continue improving recreational facilities and the quality of life for all residents. Just like Florence-Firestone, residents in Lennox will soon have a master parks plan, a street improvement project as well as a new and improved library and community service center, which are scheduled to open in February 2014.
“Many of our parks were built in the 1960s when baseball and basketball were the most common past-times. We need to make sure our parks also stay updated with changes in our community,” said Ridley-Thomas. “On any typical day, these parks are full of families enjoying their time outdoors and playing soccer. It is great to see youngsters running around, kicking the ball, playing in a healthy and safe environment.”