Penn Park activity rises among athletes, students and community
After opening last month, athletic practices and games have been central to the park's traffic
October 24, 2011, 8:14 pm · Updated October 25, 2011, 1:05 am·
Alexandra Fleischman | DP
Since Penn Park’s opening over a month ago, the University community has been using the space for athletic practices, student-run events and general recreation.
“I have been very impressed [with] how all these constituents have been able to use Penn Park, efficiently and effectively, recognizing it has only been open for a month and people are still learning about it,” Athletic Director Steve Bilsky wrote in an email.
The softball team has begun using the multi-sport complex in Penn Park for both practices and games.
During the fall softball season, the team hosted a tournament at Penn Park. They will also play all of their home games there next spring. Previously, the team practiced at Warren Field, which is a 10-minute drive away from campus.
College junior and varsity softball player Jessica Arneson praised Penn Park’s facilities. “Everything we’ve dealt with has been beyond our expectations,” she said. “It’s motivating us to want to be a better team.”
Arneson added that she sees “a lot of students, faculty members and other people from Philadelphia using Penn Park.”
While varsity athletes frequent the Park, some students looking to use the recreational space have encountered issues.
Eric Schwartz, a 2008 College graduate and current Wharton doctoral student, faced difficulties when he wanted to organize a game of pick-up soccer with friends at Penn Park.
“It’s been six years in the making and everyone forgot one minor detail, which was how Penn students were actually going to use these amazing facilities,” he said.
Schwartz expressed concerns regarding the Park’s rules and online reservation system.
“The only people that can make reservations are people that are part of athletic groups. If you’re just a group of PennCard-holding individuals, the best you can do is to show up to the fields and hope that they’re free.”
He hopes Department of Recreation will implement a program similar to Wharton’s Group Study Room reservation system.
“We’re forgetting we’re living in the 21st century here,” he said.
Associate Director of Structured Sport Michael Reno acknowledged this semester’s tight scheduling and said another field in Penn Park that will be used primarily for recreation is due to open in the spring.
Currently, students must go to the recreation office to reserve a field, Reno said, adding that pick-up games can be scheduled in this way.
“We do try to fit them in,” he said. “The Park isn’t completely finished and there are still a lot of things we need to work on. We’re definitely trying to make it more friendly to students.”
Last Friday, the Assembly of International Students hosted “Global Games” at the Park. The event featured various sports from around the world, including cricket and soccer. AIS also encouraged students to bring equipment for other sports they would like to play at the event.
“We should have an event where we can all meet and play games from different countries of the world,” Engineering freshman and Global Games organizer Karan Sharma said. “Penn Park was obviously the easiest place to go for a sports event.”
Sharma described Penn Park as having an “open” and “fun” atmosphere, though he also expressed concerns that bad weather “could be a bit of a hassle.”
“We do like the idea of an outdoor space because it offers Penn students something new and different and exciting,” Social Planning and Events Committee President and College senior Shana Rusonis said.
Penn Park’s softball field can be converted into an outdoor concert venue. In addition, tournaments, races and film screenings can be held there.
SPEC does not plan to host fall events at Penn Park since the group was uncertain about the Park’s ability to open on schedule while it was planning for this year. However, Rusonis views the space as another venue option in the future.
Regarding the Park’s location, however, she mentioned that it was “kind of a stretch” from campus.
Quidditch team founder and Wharton and College junior Anjani Vedula also sees Penn Park as a valuable resource for her team. While she plans to hold the first few scrimmages on High Rise or Hill fields to gain further exposure to the student body, she has considered using Penn Park for future practices or games.
“It’s always good to have more space,” she said. “I don’t think it would be a big deal to walk to Penn Park.”
Vice President for Facilities and Real Estate Services Anne Papageorge is pleased with current use of the Park.
“Over the next few years, the space around the Park will develop even further with the construction of the Singh Center for Nanotechnology and Shoemaker Green, making this area of campus an even greater hub of activity,” she said.