From left to right: RAD Director Robert Jones, Alan Halperin of D’Appolonia Engineering, Jim Sauer of J.T. Sauer and Associates, Old Allegheny Soccer Coach Dave Wilson, Council President Darlene Harris, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, State Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, Director of Operations Duane Ashley. (Photo/Kelly Thomas)

Officials from the City of Pittsburgh and a local sports group broke ground Oct. 21 on a long-awaited, state-of-the-art soccer field on Mairdale Avenue in Riverview Park that many on the Northside had felt was an empty promise.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl promised the Northside a new soccer field for Riverview Park in 2003 when he was campaigning for city council. Until recently, the project never made it off the ground.

Community members and representatives from local soccer clubs stood around the construction site, hands in their pockets to ward off the chilly fall air, as city Director of Operations Duane Ashley welcomed them.

“Not only did we intend to build this facility,” Ashley said, “but we intend to go all the way.”

Although original plans include the construction of a field and recreation complex, the city currently only has the funds to build the $1.7 million field. Ashley assured everyone that once the field was complete, the city would start working on raising funds for the recreation complex.

The field, which will be synthetic to allow play in all types of weather, is being constructed on a “brownfield,” or a site that was used for industrial waste. Studies indicated that a two-foot of additional, uncontaminated soil will be spread on top of the existing soil to make the site ready for recreational use.

Ashley said it was safe to walk on top of the brownfield, but that disturbing the soil could release harmful toxic waste. Because of that, clean soil was trucked in and arranged into a pile for officials to “dig” into with their ceremonial shovels.

The $1.7 million construction cost will include the field, a walking track around the field, improved lighting on Mairdale Avenue and a sidewalk so that residents can walk safely to the field.

Ravenstahl, who played soccer on sub-standard Northside fields as a youth, said, “It was always a goal of mine and a dream of mine and a vision of mine to bring a state of the art soccer field to the Northside.”

He thanked the community and the coaches like Dave Wilson and Chip Lowe of Old Allegheny Soccer League who coached him and continue to devote their time and energy to teaching kids how to play soccer.

“This is happening today because of their determination and grit,” Ravenstahl said.

Adam Ravenstahl, Luke’s younger sibling, who was recently elected as the 20th District representative to the Pennsylvania legislature, dedicated himself to helping the project move forward during his tenure.

“I like to think I was the better soccer player,” he joked.

Soccer Coach Dave Wilson didn’t answer the question of which Ravenstahl brother was more talented on the field, but he did tell a story that illustrated the Northside’s need for a new field. Another team came to play at an old mud field in the park, he said, and “They looked at our field and they went home!”

Once the field and walking track are built, Ashley said they would begin phase two of the plan, which calls for a multi-purpose indoor recreational facility that also would house a senior center.

Currently there is no set timeline for the construction of the facility, but Ashley said that, weather permitting, the field will take around six months to build. At the latest, the field will be completed by the end of 2011.

City Council President Darlene Harris, Allegheny Regional Asset District Director Rob Jones, Jim Sauer of J.T. Sauer and Associates and Alan Halperin of D’Appolonia Engineering were also on hand to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony.

Click here for a previous story on the Riverview Park Soccer Field.