As coaches, we know the life-changing impact sports can have on a young person. We also know how challenging it is to secure enough space to run a quality program in South Philly with limited resources. The FDR Park Plan, which will build 12 public athletics fields in South Philadelphia’s largest watershed park, is the game-changing — potentially even life-changing — boost our kids need and deserve.
Everyone who’s played sports in South Philly can agree that our city needs more fields. Philadelphia is a vibrant sports city and the demand for space is far greater than the supply. FDR Park is huge, centrally located, and easily accessible for families from every corner of South Philly and beyond. Having a concentration of public playing fields will allow local youth sports groups like ours to run large-scale events like camps and tournaments right here in the City.
Organizations with different age groups can host several practices at the same time, keeping costs down and making logistics easier for families and coaches. Coaches who currently spend hours finding a place to play or working on field conditions to make them safe can devote more time to coaching and mentoring youth. And perhaps most importantly, our players and families can finally have a home field as good as, or better, than anything they’ve seen in the suburbs.
Our players and families can finally have a home field as good as, or better, than anything they’ve seen in the suburbs.
With access to several publicly-available fields in one park, supporters and families will learn that FDR Park is the place to go for the best youth sporting events in South Philly. Rivals will realize that Philadelphia teams are to be taken seriously.
FDR Park is almost 350 acres. There is plenty of room for everyone. The FDR Park Plan is putting significant investment into creating natural areas, trails, and wild spaces where children and their families can take a break and take a breath. This will be the one place in our city where an older child can play sports while their younger siblings roam nature trails, go birdwatching, or play on a nearby playground. It will truly be a place for all Philadelphians to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, whether they find their respite on a soccer field or in a forest.
Some have criticized the park’s location; but we think it’s perfect. We know there are empty lots sprinkled throughout the city that, on first glance, seem perfect for fields. In actuality, these lots are often too small for regulation-sized fields, whereas FDR has the space for numerous full-sized fields.
The park is also located at a transportation hub, near highways and SEPTA buses and trains. Put quality fields at FDR Park and teams will come. Having a guaranteed place to play will be a relief not only to the coaches who routinely scramble for space, but also for parents who want to plan ahead.
Finally, unlike the current fields at FDR Park, and at most parks throughout the city, the new athletic fields will have state-of-the art performance turf. The natural grass fields at FDR today need to rest after each use and require even more down time to drain before and after rain. When grass fields are overused, they quickly deteriorate and become unsafe, muddy, and ultimately unplayable. We have seen this at FDR and at fields across the city.
By investing in modern, organic turf fields, the City and its partners are laying the foundation for a reliable playing surface that will dramatically increase the number of young people served by public playing fields in South Philadelphia. Performance turf is the gold standard in youth sports because it allows multiple games per day and no rest time following rain or inclement weather. For one synthetic field, it would require three natural grass fields to provide the same amount of playing time. There are 21 multipurpose sports fields in South Philly, only ten of which can accommodate football. More than 100 youth sports organizations rely on these fields.
Our kids have waited long enough. Let’s give them safe, high-quality places to play — on the sports fields, playgrounds, and natural areas of FDR Park.
Warren Abbott is the treasurer and a head coach of the South Philly Sigma Sharks. Amos Huron is the executive director of the Anderson Monarchs. Luis Uribe is the founder/executive director of Los Lobos Soccer Club.
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