Philadelphia Sports Zone Unveils Plans for New Sports Facility

Months of talks culminated Friday with an event to debut plans for the Philadelphia Sports Zone.

With entertainment from the Masquerade Band, architects of the proposed facility, Craig Schmitt and Scott Nixon, of Ewing Cole, unveiled the plans.

The proposed sports complex for youth teams was brought about by Father Judge High School soccer coaches Jose Ibarra , John Dunlop and Tony Parson, as well as Maggie Fulmer, a Northeast native and graduate of St. Hubert’s.

Fulmer said the idea has been a few years in the making. “Jose and I sat down and figured out what we wanted to do for the Northeast,” she said. “We talked about different facilities we could bring in and what we needed. We did a lot of research – a few years of research. We brought people together, and here we are.”

Philadelphia Sports Zone master plan concept. Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Sports Zone.
(Philadelphia Sports Zone master plan concept. Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Sports Zone.)

Soon they had the support of various civic associations and politicians, such as the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association and several local politicians and candidates, some of whom were in attendance and offered to be a advocates for the facility.

Fulmer noted that there is a need for a sports complex in the area, as there is not another one at all in the Northeast. For several months, the group has been looking at Torresdale Avenue and Tolbut Street for a possible location

“I coach a team and we travel all over the state and we saw a need for that in the Northeast,” Ibarra said. “You travel 45 minutes to go play an indoor game. We figured, where better to do it than in the Northeast, give back to the community, and help the local teams to not have to travel that far. So that was the main idea that was behind this.”

Fulmer said they are looking at the fall of 2013 as a possible opening of the facility.

At around 10 p.m., Schmitt and Nixon began their presentation of the plans

Schmitt prefaced the presentation by stating that the plans are just a concept design, but that what they came up with included all the primary elements the people at the Philadelphia Sports Zone wish to have. “The final plans will be dictated by the budget, and also the needs and interests of the community,” he said.

The 20-acre site will offer facilities for both indoor and outdoor sports, including four outdoor fields for soccer and football, as well as two indoor soccer fields in the field house and three basketball courts. The fields, said Schmitt, could also be used for other sports like lacrosse and field hockey.

“Ideally, all the outdoor fields will have artificial turf and two of the fields will be lit for nighttime play,” he said.

He went on to say there will be complimentary sports training and recreation facilities offered by a variety of tenants, some local and some that are internationally franchised, such as Extra Innings, which will have up to 10 batting tunnels and offer baseball instruction and run the pro shop. A-PECS Training will also have approximately 3,000 square feet of space for strength training, performance and conditioning. A golf simulator will be given to the facility by two local businessmen.

Local businesses like the Dining Car, NovaCare, and The Juice Zone have been supportive of the efforts, and will work alongside the Sports Zone.

Schmitt stressed the importance of having enough area for comfortable spectator viewing. He explained the slight shift between the field house and tenant building, which he dubbed “The Walk of Sports.”

“It creates the natural main circulation quarters for the players with east access to the fields,” he said. “It will also allow for room to warm up and an area to wait for a field to open, and allow for seating for people to come and watch the kids play.

Schmitt mentioned the possibility of a mezzanine level. “One of our ideas right now is, on the mezzanine level, you could access a catwalk that would run between the two indoor soccer fields, which would add elevated viewing to either field.”

The Philadelphia Sports Zone will also be home to the Philadelphia sports Hall of Fame, which has never had a permanent home before.

Schmitt said the Sports Zone plans to be a good neighbor, and that Fulmer, Ibarra, and everyone else behind it wants Ewing Cole to incorporate things for the community.

“A facility like this, close to I-95, will have the ability to draw users from miles and miles away, beyond the heavy local usage that I expect this facility to have,” Schmitt said. “I expect it to become a regular destination for regional tournaments, drawing teams not just from Pennsylvania, but from across the Delaware in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, who knows? It could be tremendous.”


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