MILWAUKEE -- An underused tennis court has a whole new outlook and a brand new purpose at one Milwaukee County park. It was the vision and hard work of one man who made the change possible.
The early reviews are positive for the new Futsal Stadium at Lincoln Park. Futsal is a growing sport that is played like soccer, but with a smaller ball and space -- just five players for each team at a time.
The stadium at Lincoln Park was made possible thanks to Keith Tozer. The former Milwaukee Wave coach and Commission of the Pro Futsal League would drive past the tennis courts at Lincoln Park -- when he had an idea.
"I looked at the tennis courts and said, 'There's no one playing on these courts.' And I'm a Futsal guy. So every time I see an open space, I think of Futsal," Tozer said.
Tozer took the idea to the Milwaukee County Parks Department -- and with the help of some corporate partners, the stadium became a reality.
"When we go back in time, what was the one thing we did? We free played," said Jason Keller of TOPYA! "I went outside the door and I played as long as I wanted to. I was creative. I was able to do whatever I wanted to. Learned the rules of life with the people, the people I was playing with. So if this court can bring those kids back -- and back out here organize themselves play, then we've done our jobs."
Coach Tozer also took a hands-on approach to the stadium -- power washing the old tennis courts, pulling the poles out, and even making the sign.
"It was a lot of hard work. But dreams can become reality and that's what it is," Tozer said.
An outdoor Futsal stadium is new to Wisconsin, but somewhat of a trend elsewhere.
"This is one of the movements that's happening around the world in metropolitan areas; taking unutilized tennis courts or basketball courts or any kind of concrete and turning it into Futsal courts," Tozer said. "You have the City of Los Angeles, you have Dallas, Houston, Chicago, New York, a lot of the metropolitan cities across our country."
Tozer also expects more Futsal stadiums to pop up in southeast Wisconsin. Even as the Lincoln Park location was being planned, other elected officials showed interest in converted space in their communities.
"The supervisor from Cudahy said, 'By the way I got courts, and Franklin I got courts, and the east side of Milwaukee, I got courts.' I really think this is the first domino of other courts that you will see the metropolitan areas and the county parks especially," Tozer said.
Tozer also believes the Futsal facilities will help in creating the next soccer superstar.
"I really think this is the future of producing that special player for the outdoor game," Tozer said.
Want to learn more about Futsal and see it being played? Stop by Lincoln Park on Saturday, August 20th. They will have a Futsal Fest starting at 8:00 a.m. and running through the evening.