The Soccer Pitch

by Brion Shreffler –

Politicians and the lords of the PA Gaming Control Board say that they want to put something on the blighted and underdeveloped Delaware Riverfront. They want something to spur economic growth and to create copious jobs within the city of Philadelphia.

Why not soccer? Why not finally give the people of Philadelphia quality soccer fields? Even better, why not a complex capable of appealing to the plethora of sporting interests that exist within the city of Philadelphia. Such a complex, open all year round, could cater to one’s burgeoning technical skills in recreation (scuba, sailing, and rock climbing, for instance) as well as traditional sports. Merchandisers as well as restauranteurs could open up shops. The people moving into the new condos going up on the Delaware as well as everyone else in the city could have a place to play.

Why list this as a casino alternative? Better to have something profitable that also imporves the lives of those within the surrounding community. For all the noise about jobs being created by casinos, such jobs will prove to be empty and meaningless. Casinos on the waterfront is really on ly blight replacing blight. The good thing about going to Atlantic City is that you don’t have to live there. Let’s not replicate Atlantic City’s urban decay within our own city. Besides, the PA Gaming Control Board has shown a complete lack of respect for the democratic process and the citizens of Philadelphia as they have tried their best to keep us out of the decision making process every step of the way.

Chelsea Piers, a vastly popular and profitable sports complex on the Lower West Side of Manhattan, stands as proof that such an alternative is viable. All age groups and sporting interests

are represented. In addition to an indoor soccer field house, the complex contains basketball courts, hockey rinks, numerous gyms, and even a day spa. The community is the focus as the facility is available for massive birthday parties, summer camps, and team building exercises (i.e. indoor rock climbing). Whether you’re there for a casual business meeting or learning how to sail the breadth of Manhattan, the center also takes in a vast amount of tourism dollars.

Soccer in particular would benefit since at present it is sadly the most poorly represented in terms of playing surfaces. One would be hard-pressed to find a decent regulation soccer field proximal to Center City. The fields at Fairmount Park (distant Edgley Fields at 33rd and Diamond) for instance, become inundated for days as they lack proper drainage. Playing on them can be injurious at times if not impossible. The Philadelphia CASA Soccer League, in an effort headed by league president Tom Adams and officer Mario Gentile, is taking preliminary steps for the construction of new soccer fields for the league which would be integrated into the community through association with local playgrounds and/or schools. Suitable sites are being sought throughout the city.

While the plethora of soccer fans and enthusiasts in Philadelphia would reap the rewards of a massive sporting complex on the Delaware that caters to their interests, the community at large would be enriched by having something conducive to health and well-being rather than a casino sure to bring depravity, high traffic, and crime. And rather than behind-closed-doors politicking, why can’t the citizens of Philadelphia make their voices heard and demand that they want something that is right for them and their children, rather than a gamble meant to spur economic growth cast blithely in ignorance of the consequences.

The citizens of Greenpoint-Williamsburg in NYC offer a fine example of people taking control of the fate of their own community. The Open Space plan initiated by the activist group Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning has led to the creation of a new soccer field and park and the allocation of land for many new future parks yet to be constructed. The plan is ongoing for the foreseeable future and will be overseen by the The Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn, Inc., which is comprised of former members of the aforementioned activist group. Providing for sports enthusiasts of all backgrounds, the plan also calls for the development of promenades and boat moorings, so that the people can fully interact with the waterfront. As with The Open Space Alliance, CASA will try to push for private funding so as to increase its clout in discussions with city officials. In the case of a waterfront sports complex, however, funding should not have to be a concern. Surely the city could provide incentives to developers, but such a complex could provide immensely lucrative and thus highly attractive to potential investors and corporate sponsors. And certainly, those heretofore ignored in the casino discussions, they people of Philadelphia, would benefit as well.

As a proud Philadelphian, I am aware of the potential influences to be made in siting two “New York” examples. Perhaps though, if we choose not to better serve our communities and the people within them, then we will truly come to bear the derisive “6th borough” tag.

Brion Shreffler is the founder of The Philadelphia Soccer Pitch, a movement to plant quality soccer fields across the city for the benefit of all. He is also a CASA League member. The Cass Soccer League is a non-profit athletic organization located in Philadelphia. Our mission is to bring inexpensive, full-field, officiated soccer to Center City and West Philadelphia. Casa, spanish for “house”, is truly a house league, since it is run by volunteer officers who are all players in the league as well.

2007-07-05 08:07:15

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