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Leveling the playing field

August 20, 2013

A $100,000 LISC/NFL grant helps revitalize Hunting Park football field in North Philadelphia

 

The transformation amazed residents.  Describing the field’s previous decrepit condition, the North Philadelphia Aztecs’ coach Jeremiah Berry recalled that, before play “we had to walk this field picking up bottles, rocks, etc.”  Yet today the rehabilitation of Hunting Park’s football field is complete, with new artificial turf, an improved drainage system, an electronic scoreboard, and additional improvements.

A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony for the restored field in North Philadelphia took place the morning of August 19th.  LISC joined a diverse group of stakeholders and supporters including government, business, and nonprofit leaders to celebrate the latest achievement within the 87 acre park.  The football field’s successful rehabilitation is just another feature of the ambitious Hunting Park Revitalization Plan which has already witnessed the dedication of a restored baseball field, tennis courts, gardens, and more.

ribbon cutting - picture by Andrew Yee

L-R: LISC Executive Director Andy Frishkoff, Eagles President Don Smolenski, U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworksi (Photo by Andrew Yee)

The low-income community of Hunting Park had lived with the crumbling infrastructure of its local park for years until the plan’s implementation stage, led by parks advocacy group The Fairmount Park Conservancy.  It was LISC’s $100,000 “Grassroots” grant during the early stages of the football field project which attracted additional public and private support, with the most generous single gift coming from Eagles quarterback Michael Vick’s foundation.

As Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez observed in her remarks, “Everyone should have access to a first-class facility.”  Finally the HuntingPark residents have gotten theirs.

The Grassroots program is a partnership between the National Football League Foundation and LISC that works with community groups to create or rehabilitate playing fields in underserved neighborhoods.

Since 1998, the NFL’s Youth Football Fund has contributed $32 million to restore or build more than 256 community fields in more than 70 cities nationwide.  That contribution has prompted other supporters to kick in roughly $125 million in additional funding to support field redevelopment.  LISC identifies the fields and the community groups committed to building them.  Improvements typically include improvements such as the installation of synthetic turf, irrigation systems, lights, bleachers, scoreboards and goal posts.

In his closing statement before cutting the ribbon, Vick told the gathered residents: “This [field] belongs to you: take it and run with it.”

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