Home Madison Madison Parks Department opens first futsal court and commits to build four...

Madison Parks Department opens first futsal court and commits to build four more; Forward Madison pledges fundraising help

Forward Madison players Jimmie Villalobos, Christian Chaney and Wolfgang Prentice try out the new futsal court at Penn Park. Photo by Robert Chappell.

The City of Madison Parks Department cut the ribbon on a new futsal court at Penn Park on the south side Thursday – the first of five to be added to parks around the city, with professional soccer club Forward Madison vowing to assist in fundraising for the construction of the next four.

“Futsal is a growing sport. It’s obviously very closely tied to the soccer community,” said Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp. “We’re very excited to have our first public, free, accessible spot in the city.”

Futsal, a game very similar to soccer but played on a hard court with a smaller ball, is growing in popularity in the United States. Many of the world’s top soccer players played futsal in their youth.

The new court in Penn Park opened Thursday along with two new basketball courts. The project cost $600,000, which includes lighting, Knepp said.

Knepp said spring and fall weather are often warm enough for people to be outside playing soccer, but the grass fields are too wet or muddy at those times of year. The hard futsal courts will be available almost year-round.

Knepp said four more futsal courts will be installed in parks around the city over the next five to seven years, some in conjunction with basketball court projects. The Madison Parks Foundation and Forward Madison will assist in raising funds for the projects.

“Since we launched in 2019, we’ve tried to be the community’s team,” Forward Madison Chief Operating Officer Conor Caloia said. “Today’s the start of our commitment to work with the Madison Parks Foundation and our other partners to raise up to $50,000 a year in each of the next four years to build four more courts across the city of Madison … Our focus is getting more people active, more young people active, and more people playing the game of soccer.”

A press release from Forward Madison said the club will raise funds through community events, fundraising initiatives and corporate partnerships. Caloia said the Madison Parks Foundation will match up to $15,000 in donations. The Flock Soccer Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Forward Madison supporters’ group, will also assist in fundraising.

Madison Alder Isadore Knox. Photo by Robert Chappell.

Madison Alder Isadore Knox, who represents the area served by Penn Park, noted a number of improvements to the south side park in recent years, including a new playground and picnic shelter. He said seeing a large group of neighborhood kids participating in a soccer clinic with Forward Madison players made him realize the futsal court “is going to be perfect for the kids here.”

Forward Madison players Christian Chaney, Wolfgang Prentice and Jimmie Villalobos were on hand to kick around with neighborhood kids after the ribbon was cut.