Kansas City Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad presented a $25,000 check on behalf of the Kansas City Soccer Foundation at Belvidere Park on Wednesday after Conrad's proposed project for the site finished runner-up in the Major League Soccer Pepsi Refresh Project voting last month.
Conrad was joined by Wizards President Robb Heineman and several other local dignitaries, including representatives from Pepsi, KCMO Parks and Recreation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Don Bosco Centers, Northeast Soccer League, Kansas City Power & Light, A.L. Huber General Contracting and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
"The Pepsi Refresh Project allows for fans to make a positive impact on local communities," said Conrad. "The Wizards want to make a difference here in Kansas City, and this $25,000 project will have a lasting impact on this area."
Local youth soccer players from the Northeast Soccer League gathered at Belvidere Park to play in a soccer match against local community leaders and received the good news in a surprise ceremony as part of the event on Wednesday afternoon. Conrad, 2009 MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year, served as an honorary coach for the youth team.
The Pepsi Refresh Project contest was held amongst all 16 Major League Soccer Clubs in September, with each club choosing a player to represent a proposed project in their local area. Conrad campaigned for nearly 30,000 votes to finish as runner-up in the contest and receive the $25,000 prize to develop soccer fields at Belvidere Park, located in northeast Kansas City, Missouri at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Lydia Avenue.
Over 600 youth currently play soccer on these fields, and many come from diverse cultural backgrounds, including a strong Hispanic population and individuals from Somalia, Vietnam, the former Soviet Block and more than 45 other ethnicities.
"The Pepsi Refresh Project is proud to provide the stage to showcase these inspiring team ideas from across the league," said Jeff Dubiel, Vice President of Pepsi Sports. "Through this initiative, fans will have the opportunity to recognize their favorite team for something other than their on-field performance. By showing their support, they will be helping to make a difference in their local community -- everybody wins."
The Kansas City Soccer Foundation is working with the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, the FBI, Don Bosco Centers and the Northeast Soccer League to continue to engage the local community around Belvidere Park. The site has been the focus of an ongoing, citywide redevelopment and beautification project for the hundreds of diverse youth that play soccer at the park. In June, an FBI Community Engagement Project brought 250 volunteers to Belvidere Park to clear brush, plant trees, install bleachers, picnic tables, barbecue pits, lighting and lines for the fields. Kansas City Wizards players Stephane Auvray, Aaron Hohlbein, Kei Kamara, Eric Kronberg and Jimmy Nielsen all participated in the effort, and also held a youth soccer clinic for kids in the area as part of the 2nd annual Greener Goals event.
"Creating positive change and giving back to their respective communities has been a longstanding priority for MLS fans," said David Wright, Vice President, Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing. "We are grateful to Pepsi for allowing our clubs, players and fans the opportunity to make a difference in their local market. The collective effort of our passionate fans will drive positive results, while building on the success of the Pepsi Refresh Project."