New park at University of Pennsylvania gets rave reviews

With the towers of Center City as a backdrop, students at the University of Pennsylvania get in some game time at the school's newest addition, Penn Park on the Schyulkill riverfront. Story, B4.
With the towers of Center City as a backdrop, students at the University of Pennsylvania get in some game time at the school's newest addition, Penn Park on the Schyulkill riverfront. Story, B4. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 16, 2011

Jessica Melendez, a member of the varsity softball team at the University of Pennsylvania, surveyed the 24 acres of new athletic fields at Penn Park and expressed giddy enthusiasm.

"I feel like I'm in Disney World," the 20-year-old junior said. "Everything came out amazing."

Maybe part of the excitement was practicing against a spectacular evening view of the Center City skyline right across the Schuylkill.

And all the grass, real and synthetic, was so green.

Penn officials celebrated the official opening Thursday of the $46.5 million collection of fields, a multipurpose stadium, tennis courts, and walkways that serves as the latest people-friendly connection between Center City and University City, and ultimately the rest of West Philadelphia.

University president Amy Gutmann called it a "beautiful, sustainable, green oasis."

Mayor Nutter, an alum of Penn's Wharton School, told the assembled dignitaries that he regarded Penn Park as "one of the most incredible projects this city has seen in decades."

A majority of the land used to be a parking lot for the U.S. Postal Service. Penn bought the site in 2007 and combined it with neighboring parcels to create the sprawling park south of Walnut Street.

Steve Bilski, the university's athletic director, said the facilities would help serve the university's many sports teams, including club and intramural squads that long have suffered from a lack of available playing fields.

Xinran Wang, 18, a sophomore who plays with the "Ultimate" disk club (they're not allowed to call it Frisbee, which is trademarked), said the park was great for all the sports clubs. "Being in the city, it's hard to find a lot of field space for all the teams Penn has," Wang said.

Rachel Sebastian, 21, a senior and member of the women's soccer club, noted all the athletes playing and spectators milling about. The club is not used to having many people watching.

"It's weird seeing so many people out here," she said.

Penn's rugby club sometimes practiced under nearby train tracks and even as far away as Clark Park at 43d Street and Baltimore Avenue, said club member Sawyer Waugh, 19, a sophomore.

"This is certainly a pretty nice upgrade," Waugh said.


Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com.

 

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