Key West city officials and more than 300 young footballers celebrated the grand opening of the new Matthew Gilleran Field at Truman Waterfront Park on Saturday.

The long-awaited and eagerly awaited pitch will be used by the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) and its 600 young players, who represent the sport with the largest number of participants on the island, officials said at the ceremony. inauguration of Saturday.

More than 300 young footballers flood the new field on Saturday after the Key West ribbon cut. MANDY MILES / Keys Weekly

“I want to thank all the soccer moms – and dads – out there who kept this project front and center and pushed it forward,” said City Commissioner Greg Davila.

Key West City Commissioner Greg Davila thanks all the soccer moms – and all the dads – in Key West for moving the field forward. MANDY MILES / Keys Weekly

Commissioner Mary Lou Hoover thanked and congratulated father of football and business owner Jim Gilleran for leading the charge for the field that bears his late son’s name.

“Jimmy Gilleran has been like a bull with his head down and always chasing the red cape,” Hoover said. “And now, today, he’s hit the mark. Thanks, Jimmy, for always keeping an eye on the goal.

Former Key West mayor and current county commissioner Craig Cates told the giant crowd on Saturday morning: “Everywhere I go people say, ‘Key West is a party town’, but I always tell them : “No, we are a premier community. ‘”

Three young soccer players eagerly await the opening of their new field at Truman Waterfront on Saturday morning. MANDY MILES / Keys Weekly

Father John Baker of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Basilica blessed the field, with a prayer that included, “The city of Key West has the wisdom to understand that recreation is not a luxury. It benefits the body, mind and spirit.

Hundreds of young soccer players eagerly await the opening of the new soccer field at Truman Waterfront on Saturday. MANDY MILES / Keys Weekly

After the ribbon was cut with giant scissors, hundreds of children wearing shin guards and uniforms took to the pitch, kicking soccer balls and celebrating their new digs in the grass.

Football players and coaches fill the new Matthew Gilleran pitch at Truman Waterfront on Saturday morning. MANDY MILES / Keys Weekly