Numerous cities — Stockholm, Moscow, Naples, Munich, just to name a few — boast subway systems lined with individual stations that are awe-inspiring, architecturally significant and adorned with transcendent art.
Five Points, the hub of Atlanta’s MARTA metro system, isn’t one of them.
Five Points station — a major transfer point where the north-south and east-west lines of the MARTA rapid transit network intersect — is a sprawling Brutalist expanse of concrete and marble that’s very much indicative of the era in which it was erected: the late 1970s. It wouldn’t be fair to call Atlanta’s busiest metro station straight-up hideous, but it isn’t exactly the most pleasing-on-the-eyes place either. And Five Points’ dreary, bunker-esque appearance isn’t helped by the fact that it’s the most crime-rife MARTA station.
As part of a wider effort to spiff-up South Downtown Atlanta’s two unsightly stations (Garnett being the other one) and render them more appealing, Five Points is getting a soccer field. Yes, a soccer field.
Although the concept for a community soccer pitch at Five Points was officially unveiled this past July (the idea itself has been kicking around for a couple of years now), recent news that the project will be funded via a grant provided by pro soccer franchise Atlanta United signals that it will indeed be moving forward. When completed, the project — “Station Soccer: Five Points MARTA Station” — will be the word’s first soccer field located within a major urban transit station. It’s an unusual first, yes, but Atlanta will soon be able to claim bragging rights to it.
Obviously, the addition of a synthetic turf pitch on Five Point’s forever-disused upper-level plaza won’t magically cure the station of its aesthetic woes — only a wrecking ball could wipe away the station's humdrum ugliness. What the project does, however, is take full advantage of Five Point’s central, high-traffic location.
As the Atlanta Business Chronicle notes, accessibility is key here. Many community sports fields in Atlanta are far-flung and/or lack public transportation options available to those who benefit from a community soccer field the most: underserved youth. This isn’t the case with the project at Five Points, which aims to attract soccer-playing — and soccer-interested — kids from all across greater Atlanta.
“Kids will now be able to take MARTA to the Five Points field to compete and play with peers from diverse communities across the city,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales explained in a statement.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that the new, subway station-bound facility — at 66-by-99 feet, it will be smaller than a regulation-sized soccer field — will feature a range of programming including after-school mentoring, training and character-development programs as well as competitive adults leagues. Atlanta-based youth organization Soccer in the Streets — motto: “Soccer for Social Change” — will head up programming at the new field as well as maintain the space.
“The field will allow our organization to expand through a totally new concept in urban soccer, designed specifically for kids who live in underserved neighborhoods,” says Phil Hill, executive director of Soccer in the Streets.
As mentioned, the raw space that will host the field isn't exactly a new addition. The station’s upper-level plaza area, complete with terraced seating, has existed since the structure opened in 1979 but for various reasons has never been taken advantage of until now.
“These spaces were incorporated into the station to provide for a community use there, but they never really have been used as they were originally intended,” Amanda Rhein of MARTA explained this past summer to local public radio station, WABE.
There are also plans to build out a community garden adjacent to the soccer field. As the Downtown Atlanta Improvement District notes, the goal of the garden is to “sustain community programming around the station” as well as “increase ridership for the MARTA system by facilitating positive experiences at the station, further encouraging a favorable rapport for the station and the surrounding environment.”
Both the community garden and Station Soccer: Five Points MARTA Station will initially operate as pilot programs, the latter for 5 years.
The in-progress project at Five Points certainly isn’t the first soccer field as of late to make good use out of neglected urban space. In a densely populated district of Bangkok, a series of vacant, garbage-strewn lots have been transformed into non-rectangular soccer fields (another world's first) as part of the community-revitalizing Unusual Football Field Project. This video has more info: