South Philadelphia: FDR Park Plan Brings New Hope To Philadelphia Youth Sports Organizations

Youth sports have been a staple at FDR park for generations. (Bowman/PN)

FDR Park in South Philadelphia has started construction on their new Park Plan which aims to revitalize the park and make it better suited for the city’s needs. Among the renovations is the construction of 12 high-quality, synthetic turf fields that various youth sports organizations in Philadelphia will use.  

Anthony Meadows, head coach of the Sigma Sharks youth football organization, has been coaching for 15 years in Philadelphia and believes that the new park plan will have a major impact on youth sports in the city.  

“The only places that have fields of this nature are maybe Florida and California, it will create a venue that is unlike anything else in the Northeast quarter,” he said. 

There are currently 40 acres completely inaccessible at FDR park. The new plan hopes to strike a balance between activity, nature, and water and make optimal use of the park’s entire 348 acres says Allison Schapker, chief project officer of Myphillypark.  

“We know with youth sports you’re not just dealing with the athletes but you’re dealing with the caregivers, brothers and sisters, and the whole family,” she said. “This is our way of saying we want to support youth athletes, by making sure it’s a great experience for everybody.” 

The park plan also includes a new picnic area, field house, playground, and 5k track around the entire park.  

John Maher, president of the Philadelphia Dragons youth sports organization, said FDR Park is vital to all youth sports in Philadelphia and the leagues that he runs would not exist without it. 

“The fields are often unusable,” Maher said. “I was down there with my team last night and we were standing in a quarter-inch of rain in the outfield because of all the rain we have had the last few days.” 

The city desperately needs new, usable fields for youth sports. In a 2021 report by ParkServe, Philadelphia ranked in the bottom fourth of all major cities in the US in terms of “Park Score,” a statistic calculated by measuring various aspects of a park such as usable acreage and equity. Due to the lack of quality parks in the city, many youth sports organizations have to share fields with multiple other teams.  

Meadows believes the location of the new site is perfect for youth sports as well, as it is accessible from most locations in the city.  

“We have kids on our team that have to walk a certain way home because they can’t go in other neighborhoods. This is a location that everyone knows if you come down here, you come down here for football, and it is not that type of environment.” 

Maher and the Dragons organization are very involved with the city in terms of planning for the new fields by ensuring that needs are met for various sports across all age groups.  

“As the plan is written today, we are extremely excited for what it will do for our organization,” he said. “We believe that youth sports is too important to not develop these fields.” 

A player watches his teammate warm-up in the batting cage on the Sunday morning of October 23rd. (Bowman/PN)
Two players on opposing teams practice their swings in the batting cage before their 9 a.m. game time.  (Bowman/PN)
The Philadelphia Dragons Red squad breaks their huddle with enthusiasm before the game.  (Bowman/PN)
A player for the Blue team plays catch with his coach next to the parking lot leading up to the game.  (Bowman/PN)
A player for the Blue team throws his first pitch from the mound, starting the game between Philadelphia Dragons, Red vs. Blue. (Bowman/PN)
Friends and family gather to watch from the sidelines of one of the few available softball fields at FDR park as the game begins.(Bowman/PN) 
A batter for the Red team makes contact with a pitch.  (Bowman/PN)
The Red team gets ready in their dugout to go bat in-between innings.   (Bowman/PN)
A player for the Blue team stands ready at the plate.  (Bowman/PN)
A Red player taps his teammate on the helmet before he goes up to bat.  (Bowman/PN)
A player for the Red team anticipates the throw at 3rd base.  (Bowman/PN)
A Blue player scores at home plate late in the game, securing the win for his team. (Bowman/PN)
The two teams shake hands and congratulate each other post-game. (Bowman/PN)
Two players return to their parents after the game is finished.  (Bowman/PN)
A sign covering the fencing in FDR park where construction of the new park plan is taking place. (Bowman/PN)

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