Between now and August 15, City Plaza on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh looks a little different. The open square has been replaced with a mini soccer pitch as part of the downtown summer soccer pop-up.
The mini pitch, very similar to a futsal court, was set up in partnership between Raleigh Parks and The Bucy Foundation, with the goal of using sports to get people downtown and raise awareness for The Bucy Foundation’s Free Pay Soccer initiative.
On July 16, the pop-up officially opened with Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin, Bucy Foundation President Ashlie Bucy, players from both the North Carolina FC (NCFC) and the NC Courage, and representatives from many of the other partners all present for the ribbon cutting.
“When I first went to the MLS rally, I didn’t know much about soccer,” Baldwin said. “I show up, there are 1,500 people outside, all cheering. People from two months old to 80 years old, people of every shape, size, and color, speaking multiple languages, and that’s when it struck me. Soccer isn’t just about a sport. It’s about unity. It’s about diversity. It’s about embracing all of us together around a sport.”
The Free Play Soccer initiative aims to raise $2.5 million over the next two years to build 25 soccer fields in local neighborhoods across the Triangle. By making fields and opening up these spaces, the Bucy Foundations hopes to elevate North Carolina communities, promote healthy lifestyles and bring people together from all walks of life.
Joining The Bucy Foundation and Raleigh Parks for the summer soccer pop-up are other partners like NCFC Youth, NCFC, NC Courage, Downtown Raleigh Alliance, Walk West, StreetSoccer USA, Sport Resource Group, Raleigh Futbol 4 All, Nike Soccer and Coach Next Door.
“We have all the right ingredients, we just need to kind of collaborate and put our minds together, put a little money together, and the vision is that we are going to put 25 fields in neighborhoods around Raleigh by the year 2025,” Bucy said. “It’s a bold vision, but we need your help and we think we can do it.”
In addition to her role as the president of the Bucy Foundation, Bucy is an owner of the NC Courage and serves on the advisory board for the William and Ida Friday Institute of Educational Innovation at NC State.
Following the ribbon cutting on July 16, NCFC’s Nazmi Albadawi, an NC State alum, and the Courage’s Kaleigh Kurtz, coached members of the media in a small clinic and scrimmage with Albadawi’s team winning a hard-fought game 5-4. Both Albadawi and Kurtz have been heavily involved with the project, serving as player ambassadors for the club.
Launching TOMORROW! We're so proud of our friends at the Bucy Foundation and @raleighparks, who are bringing this community mini-pitch to Downtown Raleigh! Check out player ambassadors Kaleigh Kurtz and Nazmi Albadawi for more information ♥️ pic.twitter.com/W692jFzIEI— NC Courage (@TheNCCourage) July 15, 2021
In addition to the July 16 media day, the pitch will host Friday Night Futbol (guided youth pickup from 5-8 p.m.), as well as adult leagues, corporate leagues, free clinics, pick-up play, yoga and more during the week. More information on the schedule can be found on The Bucy Foundation’s website.