‘Men in Red’ catch ’em young strategy


Chicago new soccer development center Image: Chicago Fire FC

The Major League Soccer (MLS) team Chicago Fire FC (US) and the Chicago Fire Foundation have teamed up with By The Hand Club for Kids, Grace and Peace Revive Center and Intentional Sports to break ground on the first-of-its-kind professional-level facility for sports, education and wellness.

The ‘Chicago Fire FC’ stated that in this regard a groundbreaking ceremony took place recently at the future 10-acre campus in North Austin (US), unveiling the project, which is just one part of the 12 Shovel Ready Sites awarded grant funding through Rebuild Illinois, the largest capital program in the State’s history. The grant, along with a donation from the Chicago Fire Foundation and support from other partners including the Major League Baseball (MLB) team Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward, contributed to the $31 million effort that is aimed to help close the opportunity gap for youth on Chicago’s West side.

The Chicago Fire Football Club is an American professional soccer franchise based in Chicago (US). The team competes in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the league’s Eastern Conference, having moved to the conference in 2002.

The Chicago Fire’s goal on the field is to play hard and win. Its goal off the field is to contribute to the quality of life in Chicago and its surrounding communities. Through the Chicago Fire Foundation, the Fire is able to give back to the community by developing programs that reach out to Chicagoland’s community. Since 1998, the Chicago Fire Foundation, the charitable arm of the Chicago Fire Major League Soccer Team, has made significant contributions to enhance the lives of disadvantaged youth throughout Chicagoland, providing more than $1.8 million back to the community. The Chicago Fire Foundation is committed to improving the quality of life throughout Chicagoland.

By The Hand Club for Kids is a Christ-centered after-school program that takes kids by the hand and walks with them from kindergarten through college, loving and nurturing them – mind, body and soul – and helping them have an abundant life. By The Hand began in 2001 serving 16 students from Cabrini-Green. Today, it serves more than 1,600 students annually in five sites across Chicago neighborhoods: Cabrini-Green, Altgeld-Murray, Austin, and Englewood. By The Hand programs prioritize academic excellence, technology-enabled instruction, enrichment and literacy, tutoring and mentorship, and spiritual development to help students become agents of change.

Intentional Sports is a non-profit organization that stands committed to providing competitive sports opportunities and health and wellness activities for everyone, leveraging a best-in-class athletic facility in the heart of Chicago.

The ‘Chicago Fire FC’ further stated that through the contribution to the community campus, the Chicago Fire Foundation will establish a permanent home for its community outreach programs, which includes its award-winning P.L.A.Y.S. (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth, and Soccer) Program. Established in 2013, P.L.A.Y.S. aims to enhance the academic performance and development of key social and emotional skills of elementary school students through a sports-based curriculum. To date, it has generated more than 250,000 hours of soccer across 40 Chicago public schools and serves nearly 1,000 youth each year.

Maintained Chicago Fire Foundation Executive Director Jessica Yavitz, “The youth within our Chicago community deserve to have access to first-rate facilities and high-quality programing within their neighborhoods. Investing in our youth through soccer not only teaches sports skills, but also social and emotional learning traits and values. By teaming up with By The Hand Club for Kids, Grace and Peace Revive Center and Intentional Sports to create the North Austin Community Center, we’re able to provide a safe place for the community to come together and play for years to come.”

The community center in the heart of North Austin will transform an existing plot of blighted land on North Laramie Avenue into 150,000-square-feet of indoor space, outdoor turf fields and Chicago’s only FIFA regulation turf field for year-round indoor sports. The facility will provide more than 100 free community hours per week, giving area youth and their families’ access to the competitive sports, education, enrichment, and holistic approach that help form the foundation for a strong, healthy and safe community. Through the work of the Fire Foundation, the club will offer more than 20 hours per week of free soccer programing for the community.

Added Donnita Travis, lead organizer of the development and the Founder and Executive Director for By The Hand Club, “This professional-level facility in North Austin is more than just a place for our children to stay active and experience the joy of sports, but it is reshaping the future for so many young people in Chicago. We’re proud after years of work to have this moment come to life and it truly would not be possible without the Chicago Fire Foundation’s generous donation and the assistance of developing the facility.”

In addition to becoming a permanent home for the Chicago Fire Foundation’s P.L.A.Y.S. Program, the center will be home to By The Hand Club for Kids, Grace and Peace Revive Center and Intentional Sports.

The campus will be developed in partnership with Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and will be built by ARCO/Murray and GMA Construction Group. It will support 75 permanent jobs and 200 temporary construction jobs. The campus is expected to be complete by Summer 2022.

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