DaMarcus Beasley left Fort Wayne in 1999 to pursue his soccer dreams and ever since has played soccer around the world for the U.S. national team and professionally.
But no matter how far Beasley travels away from the city, he never ceases to remember his roots.
His latest contribution to merge his hometown with the sport he loves is his partnership with the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department to help build the city's first public futsal soccer courts at Packard Park.
Underused tennis courts will house the smaller courts needed for futsal, a form of soccer that is played with four to five players per side.
“When I first left back in 1999, I said I always wanted to do something back home,” Beasley said Wednesday. “(Longtime Beasley camp collaborator Bobby Poursanidis) and I have talked about what we can do around the city for the soccer part of it and trying to make it grow in our area, just to help people love the game as much as we do.
“I just want to see kids get out and enjoy themselves. The main thing for futsal is for soccer, but if the kids want to go and maybe have a place to work out or do something like that; ... just do something to get out of the house and play with their friends and not just be on social media, in the house or getting in trouble.”
The Beasley Courts at Packard Park are being funded by Beasley, Indiana Soccer Association and the city of Fort Wayne. The cost is about $46,000, with plans to possibly build more futsal courts around town.
The Parks and Recreation Department first began looking into a futsal court in 2015 after community members asked about it. They ended up focusing on Packard Park because they already had money set aside to refurbish the tennis courts.
“Futsal is an accessible kind of soccer,” said Tony Zirille, an Indiana Soccer Association Board member.
“You don't need a big field, you don't need 22 people. The nature of it, it's fast. It's all about foot control.”
Construction on the futsal courts started this month and is scheduled to be completed June 1 with a grand opening planned for late June.
“It's a lot of fun for a pretty reasonable amount of money,” parks board President Rick Samek said.
Beasley also gives back to the region with a series of soccer camps that will take place at the Plex North from July 9 to 13; the Plex South from July 30 to Aug. 3; DeKalb High School from July 16 to 20; and in Warsaw from July 23 to 27.
More information about the camps can be found at www.beasleynationalsoccerschool.com.
“Soccer has grown tremendously since I was young,” said Beasley, who currently plays professionally with the Houston Dynamos in Major League Soccer.
“There are a lot of things happening in Fort Wayne as far as soccer, and I am just trying to do my part in helping it grow and put it on the map and say, 'We can definitely produce players for national teams and professional teams, any kind of level kids want to play at.' There's definitely an avenue for kids in Fort Wayne.”
Journal Gazette reporter Matthew LeBlanc contributed to this story.