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Mini-pitch soccer part of city plan to fix up Wakefield Park

by Joseph Flaherty | February 7, 2021 at 4:58 a.m.

Little Rock officials have approved plans to make improvements to Wakefield Park on the south side of the city that include a $100,000 contract with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to construct a mini-pitch soccer facility.

Members of the city's Board of Directors on Tuesday approved the contract via an ordinance declaring it impractical to bid for the project.

Wakefield Park is off Woodson Road near the exit of Interstate 30 onto Geyer Springs Road.

During Tuesday's meeting, at-large City Director Joan Adcock described Wakefield Park as "one of the most heavily used parks in southwest Little Rock, and it's used mainly by the Latino community that all live in that area."

She said she expects the soccer mini-pitch to be "very well-used."

Asked by Adcock for clarification on what a mini-pitch soccer facility is, Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department Director John Eckart explained that the city will convert a dilapidated tennis court that has not been used in years into a hard-court surface with see-through side walls.

He said players will be "able to play soccer off the walls, so it brings a different dynamic to the game."

According to the U.S. Soccer Foundation's website, the organization has committed to building 1,000 mini-pitches by 2026, describing the facilities as "ideal for urban areas and other communities where finding a safe place to play can be difficult."

Before-and-after photos of mini-pitches constructed in other cities through the efforts of the foundation usually show a concrete court for basketball or tennis converted into a small soccer pitch with a brightly colored surface.

Previous mini-pitches have been constructed with surrounding walls of varying heights made of chain-link fencing or other materials, depending on the site.

When reached by email Friday, Eckart said he did not know an expected opening date for the mini-pitch in Wakefield Park, but he hoped it would open before summer.

In a separate item during the same meeting, board members approved a resolution giving the city manager the green light on a nearly $160,000 contract with an outside firm to install a new playground at Wakefield Park.

The contract for the playground equipment and installation is with Landscape Structures Inc., headquartered in Delano, Minn.

Funding will be provided by a $250,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism's Outdoor Recreation Grants Program, as well as a dollar-for-dollar match from the city of $250,000, according to a memo from the city manager's office.

The city was awarded the grant in December.

Adcock noted that the playground at Wakefield Park "is probably one of the oldest that we have," and she appreciated that children will be getting new playground equipment there.

In a Twitter post Tuesday, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. called the mini-pitch and playground construction projects "another exciting enhancement" in areas of the city south of Interstate 630.

In addition to the improvements at Wakefield Park, Little Rock city officials Tuesday adopted a master plan for the city's parks and recreation offerings intended to serve as a guide for the next decade, as well as a 2020-24 strategic plan.

According to the master plan, which was developed through a contract with the Tennessee-based firm Lose Design, Wakefield Park consists of 9.4 acres in a residential neighborhood and includes a tennis court, a volleyball court and a lighted softball/baseball field.

The tennis court was in good condition but lacked a net, and the court fencing was in need for repairs, Lose Design consultants wrote in the master plan.

Recommendations for Wakefield Park in the master plan include that officials either replace the tennis court net or "convert the court to a use that is desired by the surrounding neighborhood."

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