Beaumont paves way for hard-surface soccer court

Marco Hernandez addresses the Beaumont City Council.

After police told him and his friends they could no longer use tennis courts at city parks to play their favorite sport, local futsal enthusiast Marco Hernandez suggested the city invest in a court for the sport, a type of hard-court soccer popular in Latin countries.

Several months ago, Hernandez and friends were playing futsal on a tennis court at Central Park in Beaumont when officers told the group they were damaging the walls and had to stop. Hernandez asked where they could play, but nowhere in Beaumont is set up to accommodate the sport. That’s when Hernandez decided to approach the Beaumont City Council.

During a work session at the council meeting Sept. 27, Hernandez addressed the council, who were all on board to move forward with his request.

City Manager Kyle Hayes described futsal, saying, “It’s an abbreviated form of soccer actually founded in the 1930s… in Uruguay. They play … usually five against five on a hard surface.”

That’s what made the tennis courts such an attractive prospect for the players, Hayes surmised. So, Hayes said, if the city wanted to move forward with the futsal court, it would be a natural choice to repurpose two of the tennis courts at Central Park and add features to them in order to create a futsal court without starting from scratch. 

Ward 1 Councilman Claude Guidroz “championed” Hernandez’s cause, Hayes said, and city staff went to work to get an estimate on what it would cost to create a futsal court at one of the local parks — including lights for the court, about $110,000.

“(Hernandez) and his friends were told to leave a tennis facility,” Guidroz commented. “They didn’t challenge the officers. They were taught to respect the police. They respectfully left. They found out they could go to a group that manages the city, and they came politely and began to ask how the process works.

“The point is, these are the kinds of young people that are not being disrespectful. They’re not joining gangs. They’re coming here, and they’re asking their city leaders, and some of them may become city leaders – I would hope so in the future. They’re doing it the right way.

“I want to thank you for dreaming big, Marco.”

Hernandez said he first encountered futsal in Barcelona, Spain when studying abroad as a student at Lamar University. He immediately fell in love with the sport and saw its potential.

“After my studies, I did a little tour and saw the soccer courts there,” Hernandez recalled. “The first thing that came to my mind is, ‘Beaumont needs this.’ That was my first thought. … And I thought, if we had one of these, there would be a magnitude of people there.”

Hernandez said the sport is physically challenging and “technical,” exercising both body and mind.

“This is something that adults are going to be able to play, myself as well, but at the end of the day, it’s for the generations to come. This here is a moment, history in the making. It will make history. One of my friends sent me a video and they made a futsal court, I want to say in Oklahoma. One of the professional soccer players there, a World Cup superstar, mentioned, ‘I wish I had this when I was a kid.’ Now that this opportunity is here and the potential it has, the sky’s the limit. Maybe one day we’ll have a World (Cup) soccer player come from Beaumont. And it begins here.”

Members of the council expressed their support of the project. Hayes said nothing related to the construction of the court would be in front of the council for a vote because the construction would be outsourced to multiple contractors, and each contract is not expected to exceed $50,000, meaning they don’t necessitate a vote. He said that as long as they want to move forward, it’s a go. He said construction would begin in approximately 90 days.

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