City officials hope nine new soccer fields in Kansas City's urban core can make Swope Park a destination for youth sports.
"So many of these venues are out in the suburban areas as you get over in western Wyandotte County or Overland Park or southeast of here, but you're in the heart of the city right here," says Parks Director Mark McHenry.
Ground crews spent Thursday putting the finishing touches on the new Swope Soccer Village at 63rd Street and Lewis Road. McHenry reaches down and scoops little rubber pieces from the synthetic grass.
"You'll see kids playing out here, and someone hits a foot, and you'll see a little splash of black, almost," says McHenry, adding that the synthetic fields have better drainage and require less maintenance than a traditional soccer field.
Youth teams will mostly play on the six artificial turf fields. The complex also boasts two Sporting Kansas City practice fields and a championship field with all-natural grass.
"We are a soccer city," says Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Circo, who represents the fifth district and advocated for the Swope Soccer Village. "We're a professional sports city, and that's pretty amazing for our population."
Circo says the youth sports park has a long history. She remembers watching Chiefs training camp there with her father. Later, it became a practice space for the Wizards. Most recently, it was the home of the Brookside Soccer Club, a local recreation league, though the fields were in bad shape.
The plan is for Brookside to keep playing on the fields, which rent for $60 an hour, and to attract other teams to the area. Circo says that could spur economic development down the line as out-of-town teams stay in nearby hotels.
Some of the revenue generated from the city's $13 million investment into the complex will go back into youth sports.
"To ensure that Kansas City kids who may not be of means to pay for their fee for their fall soccer league, there's a scholarship program that was created," says Circo.
The Swope Soccer Village officially opens Friday.