Beach Chalet fields need changes to keep playing environment safe 

What would happen if you and a couple hundred of your closest friends ran over one spot of your living room rug for several hours each day? It sounds like a silly question, but that’s exactly what happens on San Francisco’s sports fields, and why the proposal to renovate Golden Gate Park’s Beach Chalet soccer fields is the right thing to do.

When the last school bell rings, up to 4,000 kids take to The City’s athletic fields to play sports. That intense amount of use takes a heavy toll on our parks and especially on San Francisco’s grass playing fields.

At the same time, the rising popularity of youth sports, particularly girls sports, has The City scrambling to find places for kids to play. Six years ago, an independent assessment of San Francisco’s recreation facilities showed that The City was in critical need of an additional 35 soccer fields just to meet the then-current demand.

In 2006, Rec and Park teamed up with the City Fields Foundation to address this challenge. Our partnership already has resulted in renovations at four sports fields, with synthetic turf and lights, and added lights to one of The City’s existing synthetic fields. Three more field renovations currently are in design mode or under way.

One of those proposals, the renovation of four dilapidated soccer fields near the Beach Chalet in Golden Gate Park, is being considered today by the Recreation and Park Commission.

By renovating these fields with synthetic turf and lights, more than 9,000 hours of new playtime will be created and use of the fields will triple. At the same time, the renovation will save nearly 6 million gallons of water each year, eliminate the need for herbicides, and prevent injuries  that are due to abundant gopher holes.

The renovation will rehabilitate the restroom and make the site much more family-friendly.

For the past year, we’ve worked with the community, listening to neighbors and athletes, parents and kids, to come up with a design that balances the need for more and safer playtime. The fields will have no loud speakers or flashing scoreboard. The lights are 10 to 20 feet shorter than standard so they are screened from the surrounding neighborhoods. A 4-foot fence will replace the existing (and generally locked) 8-foot fence currently surrounding the fields. 

The Beach Chalet soccer fields have been used for sports for more than 75 years and are some of the primary sports fields for San Francisco kids. We should do all we can to get more kids playing in our parks, and this is another step in the right direction.

Phil Ginsburg is the general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. Susan Hirsch runs the City Fields Foundation.

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