‘Sculpting the Land’ of Penn Park

Upon completion of the 24-acre Penn Park project, expected to occur this fall, pedestrians will have access to walkways and green space along the Schuylkill River, with the city skyline as a backdrop.

Three footbridges will give them access to the site. One will be located at 30th and Walnut streets; another will extend out from the existing Paley Bridge, located behind Franklin Field; and a third will be connected to the Weave Bridge, which is situated on the eastern edge of the site.

Earlier this winter, the Paley Bridge was removed from the grounds to be refurbished with new decking, paint and lights, and is expected to be returned on March 12 or 19. In the meantime, crews are constructing a 100-foot steel footbridge extension that will lead into the park from north of the new tennis center. Steel for the Walnut Street pedestrian footbridge is also expected to be delivered this month.

Once the bridge work is complete, crews will begin to install the surface of sports Fields 1 and 2, and the infield of softball Field 3. That is expected to occur in May.

Currently, crews are putting in the stone and sand drainage system beneath the fields. They are also erecting a great beam at the Field 1 site, which will anchor a removable air structure designed to shield athletes from the winter elements.

The tennis center, the softball field walls and the dugouts are also taking shape. Instead of consisting of poured concrete walls, at the contractor’s suggestion, they will be made out of Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE). The MSE walls allow for a higher level of quality control in the design since they are fabricated off-site, and have saved the University about $1.8 million off the cost of the project.

“People are starting to understand where things go now,” says Design and Construction Director Edward Sidor with Facilities and Real Estate Services. “You really see how big it is and how big these fields are and when you get down in there, you get a feel for how [Penn Park architect Michael] Van Valkenburgh’s idea of sculpting the land is really important down there. In part, it screens the highway, but it still maintains the view up to the city.”

Text by Heather A. Davis
Photos courtesy of Facilities and Real Estate Services