A boy chases the ball during a soccer clinic Oct. 5 at Hillside Community Center. [Express photo/Regan Foster/file]

City, Comcast and Children’s Hospital unroll ‘Gamechanger’ to cover costs for K-2 coed league.

Some of Colorado Springs’ youngest soccer fans will get their kicks for free this year.

The Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department announced Wednesday that it will waive fees for kindergarteners through second graders who want to participate in the department’s spring soccer league. As many as 500 local children are expected take to the pitch for free, according to a press release.

The costs are being covered by a grant from Comcast NBCUniversal and supporting funds from Children’s Hospital Colorado. Both organizations have also pledged to recruit volunteer coaches from within their ranks to help keep things rolling.

The promotion has been dubbed “Gamechanger.”

“At Children’s Colorado, one of our primary goals is to keep kids healthy and out of the hospital,” Margaret Sabin, president of Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Southern Region, said in a statement. “Doing so requires the efforts of partnerships and programs in the community that help kids create healthy, life-long habits. … This opportunity will help more kids stay active and outside, and teach them how to build camaraderie and teamwork.”

As of Jan. 13, the city identified more than a dozen practice locations for the spring league. Those include Deerfield Hills Park, 4290 Deerfield Hills Road, and Soaring Eagles Park, 3196 Spotted Trail Drive, in Southeast. Memorial Park, 1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave., is also among the participating practice sites, and a frequent game-day site.

Parks Youth Sports Program Coordinator Will Davis said the sites were chosen based on feedback from department management and prior student involvement. The department also offers special reduced tuition for students in Harrison School District 2, he said, in an ongoing effort to increase engagement  in the community.

“When I first moved back we didn’t have anything in the [Southeast], which I thought was frustrating,” Davis said.

That was due to the economic downturn of 2008 and a reduction in participation, he said. But since he joined the department three years ago, he grew programming out of Deerfield Hills and this year was able to add the Soaring Eagles site.

Once renovations are completed at Panorama Park, Davis hopes to offer extensive programming from that facility. Currently, Southeast athletes play in the West League, he said, but with enough participation from both athletes and volunteer coaches, he envisions a time when the community could have a league of its own.

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Registration for K-2 soccer is open through Feb. 14 and may be completed via mail, by visiting the parks department at 1315 E. Pikes Peak Ave. or by filling out a from online . You can access and download the registration form here. There is a $3 processing fee for digital sign-ups.

The spring youth soccer season runs from March 9 to May 15. The city also offers leagues for boys and girls in the third-and-fourth, fifth-and-sixth and seventh-through-ninth-grade divisions. Enrollment for the older age groups ranges from $78 to $83, but Davis emphasized that tuition for District 2 students is 50 percent off.

As Southeast programming grows, Davis said, so does the need for volunteer coaches. Adults who are interested in learning more about coaching are asked to visit the Youth Sports website and call Davis at 385-6004 for further information.

“The benefits of youth sports are incredibly well documented, and we thought that if there’s any city that should focus on making sure those benefits are available to all, it’s Olympic City USA,” Jamie Fabos, City of Colorado Springs chief communications officer, said in a statement. “While programs have been available in the past to help with financial obstacles, the Gamechanger promotion removes any shame or stigma associated with requesting such help, and just makes it incredibly easy to come out and be a kid. We very much hope that this program will grow to cover more sports and more age groups in the future.”