The Rapidian

GRFC finding its niche in the GR community

A new semi-pro soccer team is making a name for itself in the Grand Rapids community
GRFC team on the field at Grand Valley State University on Sunday, April 12, 2015 after defeating the GV men's club team

GRFC team on the field at Grand Valley State University on Sunday, April 12, 2015 after defeating the GV men's club team /Megan Rodawold

Great Lakes Premier League Teams

The five teams playing in the Great Lakes Premier League are:

  • AFC Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)
  •  Croatian Eagles (Franklin, WI)
  •  Grand Rapids FC (Grand Rapids, MI)
  •  Oakland United FC (Rochester Hills, MI)
  • RWB Adria (Chicago, IL)

 

The stands during the GRFC vs. GVSU exhibition match

The stands during the GRFC vs. GVSU exhibition match /Megan Rodawold

On the corner of Diamond Avenue and Fountain Street in the Midtown neighborhood of Grand Rapids sits Houseman Field, a recently renovated stadium owned by the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Built in 1923, the stadium has seen its share of sporting events, been home to numerous high school and college athletic teams and hosted no small number of football fans. But starting May 30, 2015, the seats will be filled with fans who are there for a different type of football, as Houseman Field is the new home of Grand Rapids FC, one of five semi-pro soccer teams that make up the Great Lakes Premier League, which was created this past year.

The idea for a local semi-pro team originally began with the West Michigan Edge, which ultimately failed because of a lack of planning and funds. But, according to the soccer community in and around the city of Grand Rapids, the newly minted GRFC organization has so far been an enormous success with an approximated 450 memberships, over 3,300 likes on Facebook, and more than 1,600 followers on Twitter – all before their inaugural season has even begun.

“It’s been extraordinary to see our city come together,” GRFC founder Matt Roberts says. “We’ve just been doing this on a volunteer basis, [and] have had so many people step up and say ‘Can I help in any way possible?’ and that’s been very cool.”  

Currently, the GRFC roster features the names of 28 players, many of whom are native to Grand Rapids or have West Michigan roots. According to Roberts, “When you look at the talent we’ve produced in the area, it was very easy to find players who want to compete and want to get to the next level. We also have guys who have played overseas and are here and want to play at the highest level they can without having to quit their job or move somewhere else.”

Not only are the various GRFC players here for the competition, but also for the community, having already participated with organizations such as Hope Network’s Center for Autism in Kentwood.

“We’ve reached out to many different organizations in the area,” Roberts says. “We’re getting our players involved in local charities. We definitely want to make sure we’re giving back to the city we all love; we want to make sure we’re improving our city.”

When asked what the community itself can expect from GRFC matches, Roberts’ answer was simple: “It’s a different atmosphere; [with football,] people stand and sing the whole game, [and] they really get into the matches. We’re excited to provide that experience not only for kids, but for young adults that have gone to school and come back home and want to see a game, for people that go to MLS matches and want to see a game. It’s going to be very cool for our community to see that instead of just having the major sports here in town.” 

The community’s first opportunity to see the team in action was this past Sunday, April 12th, when GRFC won their first exhibition match against the Grand Valley State University men’s club team 8-0. The team will next face Aquinas College on Friday, May 1st at 3 p.m. 

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