Fielding communities

By Vanessa Morton

A celebration was held on Nov. 5 as Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined the Chicago Park District, the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation and representatives of various nonprofit organizations to dedicate three new athletic fields in communities across the city.

“This creative public-private partnership provides a valuable investment in what matters to Chicago: Three new fields that will provide a community anchor, where families can gather and children can play and grow,” Emanuel said in a statement. “I’d like to thank the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation, the Sacks family, Chicago Bears, Parkways Foundation and the McCormick Foundation for their longtime support of the city’s park programs and neighborhoods, and for helping us create these outstanding facilities.”

The park projects are part of the “Take the Field” initiative that was created in 2010 by Bryan Traubert, president of the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation. The initiative is focused on giving back to Chicago communities and has promised to provide 10 new artificial turf athletic fields in underserved and geographically diverse areas.

Kate McAdams, PTFF’s program director, said Pritzker’s idea was inspired by a similar project in New York City.

“[Bryan] wanted to move forward doing this field initiative,” McAdams said. “And the goal is to provide a wonderful community resource that can be used nine months out of the year.”

According to McAdams, “Take the Field” is a $12 million project made possible by public and private resources. Each field is estimated to cost $1 million, and PTFF has committed to a donation of $5 million. The Park District has also committed $2 million in order to pay for the installation of lights to extend programming hours. McAdams said the remaining $5 million is matched by donors on a one-to-one basis.

The new fields include surfaces that will last longer and new lights that will increase programming time. At least three will be lined for both soccer and football, and user fees will be waived on the basis of need.

Six fields have been completed since the initiative broke ground in early July 2011, including Pasteur, Garfield, Humboldt, Cornell Square, Jackson and LaFollette parks.

Zvezdana Kubat, spokeswoman for the CPD, said the old fields were frequented often and very hard to take care of because of wear and tear.

“It’s important because [the parks] are in blighted neighborhoods where these fields are heavily used, so putting in artificial turf that can be used throughout the year is key,” Kubat said. “And [this] certainly will increase the amount of programming we can offer in that park, and it also helps the park in terms of getting the community out there and bringing [people] together.”

The parks chosen were decided by CPD criteria, according to McAdams. She said the Park District evaluated the fields for eligibility based on high use from the community, different programming available at the parks and fields that needed reconstruction the most. She also said they looked at the viability of construction.

“The communities are so interested in being outside and these fields just get killed,” McAdams said. “They really get torn up, and the elements here in Chicago have really put a big burden on the fields. I think the real goal here was to identify areas of high use, high need and provide a really high-end resource that residents can almost use all year-round.”

According to Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a representative of the CPD, Emanuel is determined to work with this initiative.

“I can tell you that Emanuel is committed to revitalizing communities across the city, and these projects underscore this goal,” Faulkner said. “He and [CPD] Superintendent Michael Kelly are working diligently to make sure that Chicagoans of all ages have access to quality athletic and recreational opportunities.”

As the initiative has already completed phase one of the two-part project, “Take the Field” has begun looking for donors to complete the last four parks, which have yet to be announced. McAdams said the goal is to complete the fields by spring 2012.