Mission soccer field trades open play for pay

Like thorny weeds in a field of real grass, a sticky issue has sprung through the freshly-laid artificial turf at the resplendent new Mission Playground.

The recently dedicated — and still ongoing — $7.5 million park renovation included a state-of-the-art soccer field taking the place an asphalt lot with a legacy of pickup soccer.

A group of neighborhood footie regulars is petitioning The City over a policy which lets the new field be rented out on Tuesday and Thursday nights, shutting out open play for two of five weeknights.

Petition organizer and long-time Mission Playground soccer player Jaime Elias told Mission Local many of his friends couldn’t afford to pay to play soccer:

“Do you see all those people over there. They’ve been playing here for like 10 years. Jorge, for example, has been playing here for 25 years.”

Caught in a tricky spot on the pitch is the field’s regular Tuesday night client, SF Pickup Soccer. The group — which uses Meetup and smartphones to organize and collect money for matches — finds themselves targeted as digitally-powered elitists, charges members vehemently debunked in the extensive Mission Local comments.

One key question is to what extent — if at all — private firms should be allowed to “profit” from permit rentals at fields like Mission Playground.

Private firms pay $65 per hour to rent athletic fields. At $7 per player per game — a fee Elias said the SF Pickup Soccer folks asked him to pay one night — two full 6-player teams playing for an hour each would leave less than $40 per night to cover insurance, equipment, administration, and possibly profit.

The petitioners are trying to sway Supervisor Scott Weiner into revisiting the policy. Weiner, though, told Mission Local he’s content with the current arrangement:

“I think that Rec and Park has struck a good balance … My understanding is that for a good part of the week the soccer field just has open play.”