At FDR Park, it's pay-to-play

Posted: October 31, 2011

FRANKLIN Delano Roosevelt Park is a 97-year-old jewel of the Fairmount Park system, 300 acres of sporting fields, tennis courts, lakes, a boathouse, walking trails and a skateboard park in South Philly.

And it now costs $30 to use this city-owned expanse if you drive there on a day when the Eagles have a home game.

Not going to the game? Doesn't matter. Mark Focht, the first deputy commissioner for the city's Department of Parks & Recreation, said that some Eagles fans were scamming a system that allowed park users to enter for free.

About 30 to 45 percent of the people parking for free were really going to the game, causing a loss of revenue, he said, and city officials could not determine a way to make them pay.

Focht said that entry to the park remains free during Eagles home games for people who walk there or take public transit; there's no charge for people driving in to use the golf course or visit the American Swedish Historical Museum.

The city charges to park at FDR Park when events at the stadiums draw more than 75,000 people. Surprised would-be FDR Park-goers learned of the $30 fee yesterday when they were greeted gruffly at a park entrance by an employee from Standard Parking, which has a city contract to manage parking on game days.

"No free! Thirty dollars!" barked the man when people in cars said that they were there to use the park. The employee refused to identify himself, referring questions to Pam Grossman, senior manager for Standard Parking in Philadelphia, who was also turning away park users.

Grossman, who spoke at the park about eight hours before the Eagles game started, had a police officer helping her enforce the new policy.

Gregory Jacovini, president of Friends of FDR Park, said city officials told him that they were losing about $100,000 per year to Eagles fans scamming the system.

And the city wants that lost revenue to help pay for park improvements, he said.

"It's kind of a double-edge sword," Jacovini said of the surrounding neighborhood "Nobody wants the parking there. Nobody wants the tailgating. But they want the revenue."

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