Possibility of FIFA practice field going up in FDR Park has environmental groups unhappy

They say preserving natural habitat should take priority over athletic fields

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Environmental groups are concerned that Philadelphia’s selection as a host city for World Cup soccer could mean the construction of a practice field in FDR Park and the spoilage of a natural habitat area.

“It was included in the bid as a potential training site,” city Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said, of the potential FIFA practice site.

Even before Philadelphia won its World Cup bid, the 10-year, $250 million master plan to redesign FDR Park in South Philly included the construction of 12 new multipurpose athletic fields. World Cup practice locations won’t be chosen until next year, but if FDR Park is among them, at least one of those fields would need to meet FIFA standards, says Lovell.

“The requirements are pretty similar to what we were intending to build at FDR. The only big difference is that FIFA would require natural grass, and we were planning for the multipurpose fields at FDR to be artificial turf,” said the commissioner.

But David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment, says whether or not FIFA chooses FDR, the fields in the plan would ravage the wildlife area known as “The Meadows,” and preserving that area should take priority over building soccer fields.

“We shouldn’t have to destroy places that are critical for our outdoor enjoyment and for our local species in order to do that,” he said

FDR Park renovation plan
Environmental groups are worried that construction of athletic fields in FDR Park will spoil natural meadow habitat nearby. Photo credit courtesy of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

Lovell says, under the master plan, there’s plenty of room for natural green space: “Athletic amenities would take up about 8% of the total park — 8% of those 350 acres.”

The park is going to change under the master plan, says Lovell, and not everyone is going to get exactly what they want — but a FIFA practice field would leave a lasting legacy after the World Cup leaves town.