The 24 acres of Penn Park will bring much needed green space to the University’s athletic teams—intercollegiate, as well as intramurals and club sports.
Michael J. Diorka, associate athletic director/facility management, says he worked closely with Facilities and Real Estate Services, the Turner Construction Company and architects of record Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates to bring the athletic facilities to fruition.
Special attention was given to nearly every small detail, from selecting special turf, to securing netting, backstops, padding and the type of infill mixes used.
Ace Adams Field, located at the eastern-most portion of Penn Park, is designed to accommodate soccer and lacrosse. Named for former Penn Lacrosse Coach James “Ace” Adams, it is the first-ever field at Penn to be named after a coach.
The Dunning-Cohen Champions’ Field and its inflatable air structure covering provides the University with additional training space for outdoor programs and an inclement weather practice facility. The field honors James Dunning, Jr., a Penn alumnus, co-chair of the Campaign for Penn Athletics and member of the Athletics Board of Overseers, and the late Claudia Cohen, a 1972 Penn alumna. The gift was given in her honor by her brother, James.
Diorka says the inflatable air structure, which will cover the field entirely, will allow the space to become Penn Athletics’ indoor practice facility during the cold winter months. Prior to Penn Park, the University had no winter practice facility.
The air structure “goes over [Dunning-Cohen Champions’ Field] beginning Nov. 1 and comes down the third week of March,” Diorka says. “It’s about 73 feet high at its midpoint. It’s all lit.”
The Clay W. Hamlin Outdoor Tennis Center doubles the number of available courts from six to 12. It is named after Clay Hamlin III, a Wharton graduate and member of the Athletics Board of Overseers.
The yet-to-be-named softball field includes expansive dugouts, a press box, increased seating and a synthetic, all-weather turf outfield.
Michael Reno, associate director of structured sport at PennRec, says Penn Park will also be a boon to intramural sports, allowing for expanded activities such as flag football, Ultimate Frisbee, World Cup Soccer and kickball. Reno says the space will allow for the return of softball, which was discontinued two years ago with the loss of Bower Field.
For club sports, Reno says Penn Park offers better practice space and an opportunity to host home competitions. It also permits the University to host larger events, such as regional and national tournaments. Before Penn Park, some Penn clubs had to play off campus in places like Fairmount Park, he says.
It’s almost like being in a major league park"
The inflatable air structure enables the University to increase the length of some of its intramural programs. Previously, intramural soccer would start directly after Spring Break, permitting only six weeks of play before the end of the semester, time that was frequently cut even further by April showers.
“Now with the bubble, we’re able to start soccer in February and hopefully with that, we’ll be able to attract more teams, more participants and really expand in the number of games that teams usually get,” Reno says.
Diorka notes that the view of the city skyline from Penn Park, day and night, is outstanding. “It’s almost like being in a major league park,” he says.