This rendering of the new soccer field by J. T. Sauer & Associates does not feature the field lights that many residents are expecting.
A push to make the future athletic field in Riverview Park multi-purpose has essentially been given a red card.
The new field will be a turf soccer field, comparable in quality to Schenley Park’s field in Oakland, with a track around it.
Leading up to a community meeting on the park’s planned athletic field and community center earlier this month, several individuals involved in the discussions lobbied for the athletic field to cater to football, as well as soccer.
The decision has to be made prior to field construction because football and soccer require different lengths of turf and different markings.
Alan Perry and Jermaine Younger, who have been involved in the youth football program that uses Fowler field in Perry Hilltop, pushed for the intended soccer field to get football markings in addition to soccer lines, so youth football teams could play night games under the field’s new lights.
Fowler field’s lights have been in disrepair for four years, though Younger has asked Citiparks to repair them multiple times. Since Fowler didn’t appear to be getting attention, Perry and Younger thought that the football program’s best bet was to get field time at the new Riverpark Park field.
But though the new field won’t be multi-purpose, Perry said he’s alright with the decision now that Citiparks Director Duane Ashley has assured him and Younger that he will simultaneously begin fixing Fowler’s lights in the spring as the Riverpark field is being built.
Ashley said he planned to meet with Younger to talk about the lighting issue at Fowler field and also to see what improvements Citiparks can make to field quality there.
“The soccer field is going to be beautiful, and I support it [being soccer-only]. I wish it could be both, but the city needs more soccer fields,” said Perry, referring to a 2003 athletic field study commissioned by Citiparks that Ashley showed him.
That study, conducted by Pashek & Associates, compares the number of Pittsburgh’s sports fields with national standards established by the National Recreation and Park Association.
According to those standards, Pittsburgh has a deficit of 32 soccer fields and a surplus of 11 football fields. The report also cites data that shows in the decade between 1991 and 2001, soccer participation increased nationally by 39 percent.
Interestingly enough, the same study had principle stakeholders grade potential locations for new fields. The new soccer field’s location on Mairdale Street on the upper end of Riverview Park was ruled out in the 2003 study because it was not considered large enough at the time, and it was also given a poor topographical rating because of required grading.
Another issue at the moment with the new soccer field is whether it will get lights immediately.
Though some sources had a hunch officials were reallocating lighting funds from the Riverview field to use for Fowler field, Ashley said he would only be using separate Public Works funding for Fowler’s improvements.
Concerning Riverview Park’s field lights, Ashley said, “We only discussed that in a very preliminary perspective. We’ve not made a decision on lighting one way or the other.”
Primarily, the city needs to have a contractor conduct a lighting simulation in order to determine how lighting would affect residents who live on Mairdale Street, Ashley said. Only then will they decide on lighting.
“Is it finalized that lights are going in at that field? I don’t believe so,” said Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who attended the community meeting. But Harris predicted that lights would be added to the field eventually, though not necessarily by the start of next season.
Designs submitted by J. T. Sauer & Associates, the chief architect for the project, show a soccer field without lights.