After years of potential recruits being told Penn’s field hockey team would have a new field and years of delayed projects and letdowns, the Quakers are finally getting what they’ve been promised.
Penn Director of Athletics Steve Bilsky said last week that plans are in motion to create an AstroTurf field for Penn’s field hockey program, to be located just south of Rhodes Field. The project is still in the fundraising stage, but Bilsky said if all goes to plan — including finances and barring construction delays — the Quakers could be using the field as soon as next fall.
“It’s a little early to say that it’ll be ready by next fall,” Bilsky said, “but if everything [goes] right it could happen. … There’s a real commitment to do this, and short of a real bad break, it’ll be done at some point if not this year, next year.”
Bilsky said an article written by The Daily Pennsylvanian in 2011 detailing the need for Penn to play on the customary carpet-like AstroTurf, rather than the multi-purpose Sprinturf in place at Franklin Field, influenced the project.
At that point, a feasibility study was conducted to be sure an additional field could be constructed.
The athletics department chose the area next to Rhodes Field in favor of the current ‘Practice Field A,’ on the south end of Penn Park next to the South Street Bridge.
Bilsky said the new field will extend Penn Park and make the River Fields, as they are collectively called, more accessible and appealing for students to visit and watch games. The landscape will follow the theme of Penn Park with pathways, trees and other shrubbery.
Rhodes Field will also move south about 70 feet, Bilsky said, and be completely rebuilt as well. He hopes to add more stands at Rhodes and potentially build a bathroom and locker room facility down the road.
The new field hockey field will sit between Rhodes and the old softball field, which is now track and field’s throwing area.
“It’s a nice little complex that will play well with Penn Park on the other side of South Street,” Bilsky said.
Though the athletics department is on the hook for financing the entire project — which is estimated to cost “a couple million dollars” — Bilsky said potential donors are committed to the project and fundraising is generally not a serious obstacle in the plans.
However, the plans must go through a number of committees throughout the University before it gains final approval by the Board of Trustees.
“We have a concept in place [and] we’re committed to building up the River Fields,” Bilsky said. “We’re at the right place, the proper place to be with [the plans].”