Mini soccer field opens at the Francis J. Myers Recreation Center in Philadelphia
Southwest Philadelphia and its vibrant sports community welcomed a brand new mini soccer field – the first of more than a dozen to come to town in the next five years – as well as newly renovated basketball and tennis courts at the Francis J. Myers Recreation Center on Tuesday.
The reveal marks the first phase of a partnership between the city’s rebuild program – Mayor Jim Kenney’s initiative to use soda tax to rebuild rundown recreational facilities in needy neighborhoods – with the Philadelphia Union and Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer.
In 2019, the groups announced that they would allocate $ 3.5 million to build 15 mini soccer fields and two full-size signature fields across Philadelphia in various parks and recreational facilities by 2025.
The first was finally presented on Tuesday.
Despite the high temperatures, over 100 community members, soccer players, and city guides – including Kenney – gathered in the room and enjoyed free ice and water ice, games, and music.
The event also marks the first phase of a much-needed investment in the Francis J. Myers Rec Center, a six-acre park on 58th Street and Kingsessing Avenues that has long served as the cornerstone of Southwest Philly. Approximately $ 350,000 was invested in the first phase of the project, and Rebuild will begin the civic engagement phase of a full renovation of the center and surrounding property this fall.
“I feel overwhelmed. I am happy to have something special for this community, for our youth,” said Jamila Abdur, director of the center. “I hope this kindles the fire for what is to come in this building. “
Abdur, who has worked at Parks and Rec for over 35 years, hopes the additional renovations will bring the legacy of the Southwest Philly community to life and lift the “spirit in this building.”
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Numerous sports teams train at FJ Myers – including a baseball and soccer field, four basketball courts, a pool and an indoor arena – but for the past 20 years, independent soccer leagues have tended the grass pitches, said coach and soccer player Foday Turay.
Seeing the city invest in the space is a huge win, said Turay, who heads the youth football league. Salone football club, and is also the captain of the Sierra Leone squad for the Philadelphia Unity Cup, an annual adult football tournament attended by Philadelphia immigrants representing their home countries.
“We fought for a long time,” he said.
The Sierra Leone team trains at FJ Myers while their youth club trains at Connell Park on 64th Street and Elmwood Avenue. Turay said that the pitch, which is on a paved surface, will be useful for training speed, agility and footwork as the ball will move faster than on a lawn. Turay said that as soon as local children and families notice the new facility, his phone will ring and ask when they can come to practice.
Mini-playing fields are small areas designed for four-on-four soccer programs and pick-up games. They can be built on the site of old tennis or basketball courts or built as lawn or grass fields. At FJ Myers, the court is on a previously unused tennis court with a mural by the artist Calo Rosa entitled “Unity Chant” in the middle.
The next mini-playgrounds will open at the Capitolo Playground in East Passyunk and the Olney Recreation Center. The locations for the two full-size soccer fields are still being planned, said a spokesman for Rebuild.