News & OpinionWeekly News Roundup

5 Things to Know: Mini Soccer Pitch Unveiled in NoDa

...and four more stories from Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 2023

A group of more than 100 people pose for a photo on the mini soccer pitch
Celebrating the unveiling of a new mini soccer pitch in NoDa on Nov. 1. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Mini Soccer Pitch Unveiled in NoDa

Charlotte FC (CLT FC) and Ally unveiled a new mini soccer pitch in NoDa on Wednesday, Nov. 1. It’s the 11th one built as part of the club’s Pitches for Progress initiative, through which they will install 22 new pitches across Charlotte and the Carolinas to provide local residents with safe opportunities to play soccer.

About 75 kids from the surrounding CLT FC Greater Goals program, the Creative Player Foundation and the Matthews Mavericks showed up under the East Sugar Creek Road bridge on Raleigh Street to celebrate the unveiling.

CLT FC midfielder Brandt Bronico attended the unveiling, taking part in the ceremonial first kick on the pitch alongside Ally’s Natalie Brown and Flywheel Group president and founder Tony Kuhn.

Learn more: MLS Awards Inspire Reflection on 2023 Charlotte FC Season

Organizers also unveiled a new mural created specifically for the pitch. Painted by artist Geoff Gouveia, the mural aims to serve as “a visual representation of the area’s vibrant community, celebrating its love for soccer and the partnerships behind it,” according to a release.

Gouveia said working with Charlotte FC on the mural project was especially exciting for him because he loves soccer — specifically its creative aspects and the small-sided games, or matches made up of around three to six players on each side.

“Creating something next to a small pitch was my dream,” he said.

A mural
Geoff Gouveia’s mural at the site. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Gouveia said he believes the mini-pitch will cultivate the creative side of soccer in a way that many folks might not foresee at first glance.

“I think small-sided soccer is great for creativity,” he explained. “Creativity on the pitch but also off the pitch, as well. “Anytime there’s a mural or something else creative next to it, it shows kids that fútbol isn’t only about the game, there are other things that are right alongside it.”

Tim Moore to Run for Congress

The News & Observer confirmed Thursday night that, following the approval of maps drawn by his party that provide him a safe path to get elected, NC House Speaker Tim Moore will officially enter the race for US Congress soon, running against fellow Republican Pat Harrigan in the primary for the 14th district.

“Let’s be clear: Tim Moore carries a legacy of corruption, from being bought and paid for by the casino and gambling bosses, to taxpayer-funded sexual escapades,” Harrigan wrote in a statement on Thursday night. “Such a man does not represent NC14’s values, nor does he deserve its trust.”

Harrigan was referring to a lawsuit filed against Moore in June that alleged the House Speaker lured the plaintiff’s wife into an affair using his political influence and did the same to other women. That lawsuit was “resolved” shortly after it was filed, and though Moore denied all allegations therein, little to no details are known about the resolution.

Learn more: Lawsuit Filed Against Tim Moore Makes Troubling Claims

Current District 14 rep Jeff Jackson announced last week that he will run for attorney general after newly drawn congressional maps pushed him out of the district altogether.

Cedar Fair Announces Merger with Six Flags

Cedar Fair, the company that owns Carowinds, announced Thursday that it has merged with Six Flags, creating a company with a combined value of $8 billion and a portfolio that includes 42 parks and nine resort properties across 17 states, Canada and Mexico.

The merger is expected to close in the first half of 2024, following receipt of Six Flags shareholder approval, regulatory approvals, and satisfaction of customary closing conditions. The combined company will be headquartered in Charlotte.

It’s unclear what if any changes the merger will bring to Carowinds, though the company will now have licensing rights to Warner Bros and DC Comics characters, which will at the very least mean some branding changes on popular Carowinds attractions.

Niner Esports Announces Funding for New Facility

UNC Charlotte esports club Niner Esports announced this week the creation of a dedicated esports space in Norm’s Loft in the Popp Martin Student Union on the university’s campus, funded by a $1.5-million allocation in the recently passed state budget.

UNC Charlotte will move forward with design and construction planning once funding is received, according to a release put out on Thursday, which added that N.C. Rep. Jason Saine, who graduated from UNC Charlotte in 1995, was influential in the approval of the state appropriation.

NC Rep. Jason Saine (third from left) with UNC Charlotte officials and members of Niner Esports. (Photo courtesy of Niner Esports)

Niner Esports started in 2013 with a few dozen students who played League of Legends together. Ten years later, the club’s Discord server holds more than 2,400 participants, most of whom are Charlotte students and alumni.

In December 2022, Charlotte was among the 10 universities nominated for Collegiate Program of the Year at the Esports Awards. Nine of the competing institutions had varsity esports programs, while Charlotte was the only student-led club. Six months later, Niner Esports won Club of the Year at EsportsU’s 2023 Collegiate Awards.

“We grew in virtually every area you can imagine,” said Jorge Sanchez, a current alumni advisor and former Niner Esports president. “The Esports Awards are the top awarding body in esports. To be on the world stage really sets us apart, especially as the only entirely student-run organization nominated.”

CMS Announces Calming Rooms for Students’ Mental Health

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on Friday announced that 18 of its schools are creating new calming rooms designed to be used by students and staff through the district’s School Health Advisory Council (SHAC), which was awarded a $60,000 grant through the StrongSchoolsNC COVID-19 Testing Program.

The grant is meant to support mental, well-being and behavioral health components aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model.

CMS students participate in a pilot program for Inner Explorer, a school-based mindfulness program that will be expanded in the district in the coming year. (Photo courtesy of GreenLight Fund)

Based at the district level, SHAC is composed of staff and community members dedicated to promoting a healthier school environment and community. The grant will fund calming rooms at two schools in each of the district’s nine learning communities.

District leaders will hold a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 7 to discuss the project in more detail.

In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health, and research and reporting has shown the trend to only be worsening since then. You can read more about what the district is doing to confront this crisis in our reporting from October.

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