FDR Park in South Philadelphia considered for World Cup practice location

Kathryn Ott Lovell says part of the city's budget to host a World Cup event is being privately raised.

Friday, June 17, 2022
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FDR park is beloved for its natural habitat, but the City of Philadelphia is ready to turn the more than 340 acre park into an urban oasis.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The park is beloved for its natural habitat, but the City of Philadelphia is ready to turn the more than 340 acre park into an urban oasis.

"I think it needs a lot. It needs a helping hand," said Drew Miele of South Philadelphia.

The City of Philadelphia is committed to revitalizing FDR Park with plans to use just over 25 acres of the 130 acre golf course that's now overgrown and unusable for multi-use sports fields.

"I think soccer fields would be great. It would bring more people," said Ala Hamilton Day of Center City.

Thursday's big announcement that FIFA has selected Philadelphia as a host city for the World Cup in 2026 sparked questions about whether or not FIFA would select FDR's future soccer fields as its practice location.

"The FIFA training site needs to be natural grass, and it was our intent to maximize playability to make the fields at FDR artificial turf," said Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner for Parks and Recreation.

RELATED: Philadelphia selected as one of 16 cities to host World Cup games in 2026

Right now, there is no financial investment from FIFA to help build these soccer fields, but Lovell says part of the city's budget to host a World Cup event is being privately raised.

"I think it would be amazing if a portion of those funds raised would go to support a project like this at FDR," said Lovell.

However, local groups like Penn Environment are petitioning to save the wetlands in FDR Park from the construction of new fields.

"There's a lot of places to put those other things. These are really special resources, and we should invest in it as is," said Stephanie Wein with Penn Environment.

Lovell says just 8% of the park will be designated for athletic amenities.

In a few weeks, the city will break ground on a new playground and start a new project to add 40 acres of restored natural habitat.