Union Pacific Railroad (Union Pacific) and Street Soccer USA (SSUSA) opened its first-of-its-kind soccer facility at an official ribbon cutting earlier today with leadership representing the city of Sacramento, Union Pacific, SSUSA along with Olympic and World Champion U.S. Women’s National Team player Brandi Chastain. The Union Pacific Street Soccer USA Park is made possible through Union Pacific’s contribution of $191,000 – one of the largest grants for a community project in California through its Community Ties Giving Program. The new park is also made possible through a $34,000 contribution from city of Sacramento Councilmember Steve Hansen and $25,000 from SMUD.

“Union Pacific believes vibrant spaces like this are at the heart of a community and reflect its diverse character, while creating destinations where families and visitors want to be,” said Union Pacific Sr. Director of Public Affairs Francisco Castillo.

The Union Pacific Street Soccer USA Park includes two turf fields and a modified shipping container clubhouse that will host year-round SSUSA programming for both youth and adults in surrounding neighborhoods. Construction of the Park began in June 2020 and was completed in mid-October. Programming will launch immediately but will operate under modifications, due to COVID19, to ensure health and safety guidelines. Through a $25,000 grant from SMUD, the park will also install lighting to provide programming and community access beyond daylight hours. More than just a place to play, the Union Pacific Street Soccer USA Park will be a point of community pride and excellence.

“Today will be a day to remember as we opened this first-of-its-kind soccer park in District 4 on Broadway, during a time in which we know our neighborhoods need places and programs that represent resiliency and hope,” said city of Sacramento Councilmember Steve Hansen. “O’Neil Park has long been a destination for our soccer community and that tradition continues with this park as a beacon of possibility for kids who need it most. The promise of today was to deliver for tomorrow this place where our community can create that triangle of support that is so important for our kids.”

The facility was developed from SSUSA’s years of experience working in the Sacramento community, including SSUSA courts in Oak Park and at Mather Community Campus. The space will be SSUSA Sacramento’s hub as it aims to bring fields and programming to every city council district over the next five years. The landmark partnership between Union Pacific and SSUSA was announced and celebrated on Jan. 30, 2020 during a press conference and soccer practice for SSUSA players.

SSUSA Sacramento chapter has operated programs for the last seven years for more than 1,600 youth and adults, many of whom are homeless or formerly homeless. The new park is expected to triple the number of program participants once fully functional. Eighty-five percent of SSUSA adult players dealing with addiction are maintaining their sobriety. With support from key local partners, SSUSA Sacramento has continually increased its impact in improving lives through soccer programming and off-field social service support, including connecting adults and families to employment, housing, education and mental health support.

Through its specialized social emotional learning skills curriculum that bridges the lessons of life and soccer, relationship-based coaching philosophy, emphasis on teamwork and community, and commitment to providing high-level, accessible and free soccer programming, SSUSA continues to help program participants discover their strengths and achieve their goals on and off the field. SSUSA is also a recipient of $10,000 for workforce training via a city of Sacramento CARES grant.

In addition to their partnership with Union Pacific, SSUSA is also a partner with UC Davis Health and the California Storm for the Ladies First Initiative. The Ladies First Initiative is focused on building programs and creating soccer teams for girls and young women who are most in need; creating a space and place for them to grow.

“I get emotional as a founder of a nonprofit in Northern California knowing these are the types of assets, we have to offer our kids and adults from marginalized communities,” said Soccer Hall of Famer Brandi Chastain. “It takes a community - including our neighborhoods, businesses and local leaders - to make it happen; but it is soccer that binds us and provides the platform for us to be better, and to want more for our cities and each other.”

– Erica Bjork