By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Michael Nutter today announced a $2.5-million project to restore a decades-old playing field in North Philadelphia, fullfilling a three-year-old promise to a local pee-wee football team.

“Champions need a great field to play on,” said Nutter today.

In 2010, he told the Blackhawks, champions that year of the Pop Warner Pee Wee Football League, that he’d build them a new field at 11th Street and Cecil B. Moore Ave.

Now, after three years of working with City Council president Darrell Clark, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Joseph’s Prep, and other partners, the dream of a new field will soon become reality.

“We call it the ‘Dust Bowl,’ ” says Blackhawks’ coach Don Richardson of the current playing field (photo below).  “There’s grass on the field now, but during the season it’s nothing but dust and dirt.  Those kids play with a mouth full of dirt, eyes full of dirt.  But they play their hearts out.  We hope to bring another championship home to honor this field.”

New artificial turf will replace the current grass football field.  New goal posts, a scoreboard, and renovated restrooms and locker rooms will also be a part of the restoration.

The baseball field in the southeast corner of the lot will also be replaced.

“It’s good to be here, to see a focus on the young people who are committed and engaged in productive things  in their community,” City Council president Clarke told the crowd at City Hall today. “It’s nice that we’ll have a world-class facility in the heart of North Philadelphia.”

St. Joseph’s Prep paid in $400,000 and will share the new facilities.

“We’d been practicing at the Belmont Plateau forever, so it gives us a chance now to have a field to call our own,” says Gabe Infante, St. Joe’s football coach.  The school’s lacrosse, rugby, and soccer teams will also get to use the field.

(The current ballfield in North Philadelphia known unflatteringly as "The Dust Bowl."  Credit: Cherri Gregg)

(The current ballfield in North Philadelphia known unflatteringly as “The Dust Bowl.” Credit: Cherri Gregg)


“It feels great to know that we’ll have a field that close, so we can work to get better as a team,” said Chuck Goldstein, a lacrosse player.

The project is expected to break ground this fall.

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