University of Pennsylvania Opening Celebration for Penn Park Is Sept. 15; Field Day Set for Sept. 17

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania will hold a grand opening celebration for Penn Park, the centerpiece of the University’s Penn Connects 30-year campus development plan, beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15. Formal celebration ceremonies will include a tree planting, ribbon cutting, picnic with recreational activities and conclude with a fireworks display at 7:30 p.m.

Students, staff and faculty are invited to return to the park 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, for Penn Park Field Day, when attendees can participate in giant field games, an obstacle course, homerun derby, twister, tug-of-war or human chess. Varsity and club teams will offer sports clinics.

Those attending also may have their photos taken with the Heisman, Outland and Bednarik trophies from the University’s collection before heading out to Franklin Field for the Penn/Lafayette football game.  Free bottled water and pretzels will be available, and the first 2,000 visitors will receive a free commemorative T-shirt.  

Penn Park is 24 acres of athletic fields, open recreational space, and pedestrian connections south of Walnut Street on the eastern edge of Penn’s campus.   The Park combines 14 acres of land Penn purchased in 2007 as well as 10 acres of University property near South Street.  The Park has increased the University’s green space by 20 percent, and creates a new pedestrian gateway uniting West Philadelphia with Center City. The Park replaces a surface parking lot previously owned by the United States Postal Service.

“Transforming these 24 acres of abandoned lots and unused land into open, accessible, sustainable space connecting Penn with Center City will transform our beautiful campus and Philadelphia for generations to come,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “Penn Park marks the first time that the University has, by design, developed open space for the use of the Penn community and beyond.”

Penn Park was designed by landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of Cambridge, Mass. and Brooklyn, NY. The Park’s athletic facilities include the James “Ace” Adams field and Dunning-Cohen Champions field, both multipurpose NCAA regulation athletic fields; a 470- seat multipurpose stadium that is also an NCAA regulation women’s softball field; and 12 tennis courts with 200-seat viewing stands. Between these facilities are pathways, elevated bridge connections and open space for passive recreation, with 548 trees adorning the landscaped pathways for walking, biking and jogging. The Park is served by a 210-car surface parking lot along lower Walnut Street. 

Three playing fields utilize synthetic turf for varsity practices as well as club, intramural or recreational games. One will be covered with a seasonal air structure in winter to allow for athletics programming throughout the year. The multipurpose stadium can double for both softball or as an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and other events.  

“Many of us have worked for decades to have athletic and recreation playing facilities on the former postal lands,” said Steve Bilsky, director of athletics. “However, we never could have imagined it developing into something as picturesque and functional as Penn Park.”

A major feature of Penn Park is its commitment to sustainability in both construction and operation. Some sustainability highlights:

  • Diverse local flora. More than 500 trees have been planted on the site, including white pine, swamp white oak, and metasequoia.


  • Self-irrigating athletic fields. The permeable synthetic turf fields, which do not require mowing, fertilizing, or irrigation, allow rainwater to drain through into underground cisterns for reuse in an on-site irrigation system for the site’s natural plantings.


  • Sustainable lighting system. State-of-the-art, energy-efficient lighting is expected to save 300,000 watts of energy per hour and will feature shielding to prevent light pollution.


  • Recycled and repurposed materials. Old cobblestones, curbing and asphalt millings uncovered during site preparation have been repurposed on site as fill.


 “This project marries the Penn Connects campus development plan with the University’s Climate Action Plan goals by creating a sustainable landscape while also meeting athletic and open space needs of the community,” Anne Papageorge, vice president of Facilities and Real Estate Services, said.

 The University invested $46.5 million to create Penn Park, which included the creation of 233 jobs for local residents, with 30 percent of the construction contracts awarded to minority-owned and women-owned businesses. 

Additional information, including a map, FAQs and how to make reservations, is available at

Coverage by the news media:

The Philadelphia Inquirer:

The Daily Pennsylvanian: and

"Newsworks," WHYY Radio (Philadelphia):

WCAU-TV (Philadelphia):

CBS Philly/KWW Radio (Philadelphia):

Photos of Penn Park: