story by Nick Lingerfelt | photo and illustrations courtesy of Roberto Cantu & Sylvia Leon
Casa Leon, an event venue near the Summer Avenue and Sycamore View Road intersection, will be renovated and is set to open in the spring of 2019 and become Soccer City 901, a family-friendly restaurant and sports bar.
Roberto Cantu and Sylvia Leon, the husband and wife team who have owned the spot that is the former site of Jim’s Place East since April 2017, said they want the venue to be reminiscent of other Memphis hang out and restaurant destinations like Railgarten and Loflin Yard.
“They (people who rented their venue) only want to rent on Saturdays, so we had the property empty all of the other days,” Leon said. “That’s when he (Cantu) came up with the idea of doing something different because the year only has so many Saturdays.”
That is when Soccer City 901 was born.
One of the goals of this venture is to connect the Latinx community with other communities in Memphis. La Prensa Latina, a Spanish language news source for the Mid-South, reported 385,000 members of the Latinx community currently live in the area, making up 12.5 percent of the total population. Of that amount, 60 percent come from Mexico and other Central American countries, 14 percent come from Venezuela and Colombia, 13 percent come from Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and another 13 percent come from Spain and other South American countries.
Being such a sizable and growing population, Cantu and Leon want to create a space for them while also attracting other groups of people to take part in their new enterprise.
Casa Leon closed at the end of 2018, and Cantu and Leon expect to renovate for two or three months. When they reopen, they will have two soccer fields where they will host tournaments, foosball tables for which they will also host tournaments, televisions for guests to watch soccer and other sports, special events for Latinx comedians and musicians and festivals.
“We’ll have something casual where people can go outside or inside and have live bands, these type of things,” Leon said.
Leon said young people these days spend much of their time engrossed in their devices and she and her husband want to change that at their new establishment.
“We want to change that and make a place where they can play and interact,” Leon said.
Cantu said there were not many places in Memphis to watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and he ended up either watching the games at home, Buffalo Wild Wings or a Latinx restaurant.
“I see that here in Memphis there was no place to watch the games,” Cantu said. “We’re looking for places, and there’s no soccer place to watch games.”
Cantu echoed his wife’s desires to make this place more about interaction and connection than how they have seen people behave at other restaurants.
“We want to make a place family-friendly for the sports, soccer,” Cantu said. “We don’t want to have like video games or something.”
Cantu said they made a list of names, but Soccer City 901 encapsulated what their vision was.
“It’ll be like a city of soccer,” Cantu said. “It’ll feel like you’re in a soccer stadium.”