For a while, I lived right near McCarren Park, and nearly any time I ran around its track, there was a soccer game happening: men’s leagues, co-ed leagues, women’s leagues, kids camps, all constantly played on the field’s deteriorating synthetic turf, whose black rubber pellets somehow rose, inconveniently, to the same level as the weird grass, and stuck to skin and shoes and clothes. Eventually I saw the same situation (only without the out-of-control rubber pellets) at Bushwick Inlet Park: It was never not full of soccer players. More or less, in almost any city park in Brooklyn and Manhattan, I see leagues and clubs fighting for playing time, and squeezing in matches, at all hours. Clearly, in New York City, there are not enough soccer field surfaces to meet considerable demand.
And this is why Greg Pinel–who in 2010 began the World Soccer Project, which both runs adult recreational soccer leagues and helps funds causes for kids around the world, even outside of soccer–decided to do something about it. For years he searched for an indoor space that could host a dedicated 5-a-side-soccer facility (matches of five versus five). Not a single one existed in the entire city. But now, one does.
The Pitch, which opened on North 14th Street in Williamsburg in December, is the only indoor facility of its kind in New York, and registration for spring leagues is open now.
I stopped by last night to check out the digs, and talk with Matt Dean, who moved here recently from England (where he also worked for a large 5-a-side company) and who helps run the Pitch. And let me tell you, compared to the turf situation at McCarren track, and to most over-crowded city park options I’ve witnessed across the city, the Pitch is a dream.
The field is slightly longer and wider than standard New York City basketball courts or middle school gyms, so there is plenty of space to really break into a sprint; the artificial turf is top of the line and known as 3G–the third generation of its kind (and the latest) used by the likes of professional teams in the Netherlands (whose teams are obviously very good and picky) and some US Major League Soccer teams. It’s anchored by soft, shredded rubber pellets (very nice on the ankles and knees) and the turf itself plays like real grass. Plus, the perimeter is walled and completely padded, so the ball never leaves its confines.
The Pitch currently hosts three leagues (women, men, and co-ed, each made of eight teams, with eight-week-long seasons) as well as kids’ programming (which is very popular, according to Dean, and which includes everyone’s favorite, the soccer birthday party). The Pitch will also offer adult classes soon, taught by a professional who is also a coach with the New York Red Bulls.
Soccer fanatics: This place is the real deal. In the winter, it’s awesome, because it is not freezing; in the summer, it is awesome, because it is not searing hot (AC, what up!); natural light streams in through five massive sky lights, and a garage opens to the street (again, when not freezing). And, in addition to these soccer-only activities, The Pitch–as Pinel has done historically–also hosts soccer programs for youth who wouldn’t normally have access to the sport, including the Girls Sporting Club of New York, which aims to increase school-age girls’s participation in soccer (it’s a joint project with Nike).
Last night, the co-ed leagues were just trickling in as I talked to Dean. I’m not a professional but I’ve played some soccer and from what I could tell, these folks were good. But the Pitch, of course, is also open to soccer players of all levels; and that is great news because, as discussed–and as Pinel clearly knows very well–the soccer players of our city need all the space they can get. And now, thanks to the Pitch (which Pinel hopes to expand to as many locations as possible, as spaces become available) they have a little more of it.
Sing up now for spring leagues, with an early-bird rate of $145 per person until March 8 (usually $180) The Pitch; 196 N 14th Street, Williamsburg