Soukup noticed this section of the park immediately west of a former pro shop, and another area had already been marked as a potential location for a dozen artificial turf football fields as part of the existing master plan. If the city were selected and FIFA selected FDR as their practice site – both are big ‘ifs’ – the proposed facility would include new fields, toilets, a press box, concession stands, storage space and more.
Soukup described the plan as “speculative” and “based on preliminary discussions,” but also said the potential project could leave lasting investments that would add to elements of a master plan that could cost more than $ 200 million.
“These facilities could also be built and used for a possible training location,” she said. “We see this as a great option to advance the design and construction of the Pattison fields.”
Cohen said the development of the exercise facility will be shared between the city and the nonprofit host committee.
Ask who will benefit
FDR was the only proposed training location currently in use as public land. Others include the nearby NovaCare sports complex, the Philadelphia Union’s Subaru Park arena, and college fields at the Universities of Pennsylvania, Temple, and Drexel – only four of the six would ultimately be selected, according to Cohen.
Proponents say FDR Park is in desperate need of a football facility upgrade as some existing fields have been more used and become a growing neighborhood football league. Although some funding has been secured for elements of the master plan, most have not. Parks & Rec also saw its budget cut during the pandemic last year, and only a small portion was restored this year.
But David Masur of the environmental organization PennEnvironment said he had long spoken out against elements of the master plan that called for greater renovation of the park or the return of public space for more private use – another design element included the option to add a new golf driving range build in the southwest part of the park, for example.
For similar reasons, he turned down the FIFA project, calling it a slippery slope.
“It turns it from wild and green spaces into a cash cow for the city and this World Cup bid,” he said. “They say, ‘We’ll do whatever you need to. We give everything to the highest bidder. ‘ But the practice fields, a fairly large artificial turf footprint, all of this only opens the floodgate for other activities. “