From the Archives: A History of the Rooftop Athletic Field

Over 50 years after its reveal to the community, the rooftop athletic field of Friends Select’s Parkway Building and its magnificent perspective of the surrounding cityscape still have a majestic presence. When the building was constructed, the 50,000-square-foot field was a solution to the need for outdoor recreation space, and at the time, it was one of the first facilities in the country to use AstroTurf. Since then, the field has received several turf replacements, including one 20 years ago that alumni may not recall so fondly: protective features of the roof were stripped away, leading to leaking into second floor classrooms, and in some cases, onto students and teachers.

This distinguishing feature of our building is the home field for various middle and upper school athletic teams. “There are so many memories on that field for Friends Select families and also those outside our community,” athletic director Bill Klose P’21, ’25 remarked. “Our field hockey team won many Quaker Cup Championships on our rooftop! Our programs are better because of the utilization of our turf field.” Opponents of the Falcons have even been known to stop in their tracks to appreciate the view. “Many field hockey teams only play at Friends Select, rather than rotating home and away, because their players and coaches anticipate the excitement of playing here. Visiting schools often take team photos on our field because of the amazing background of the city buildings,” Bill added.

The rooftop athletic field also accommodates activities in each division, alumni gatherings, and celebrations such as the International Day of Peace; it is one of the only spaces on campus where the entire school community can gather simultaneously. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the roof was tented and used as a gathering area for upper school students, as it allowed them a safe space to maintain distance while socializing and eating lunch. And the roof is a source of income for the school, as a rental option for local intramural sports programs. “The rooftop field is an extraordinary part of our building,” observed director of financial operations Matt Rosen. “It allows us to have a unique outdoor space for our students to use for recess, physical education, athletics, academic classes, and lunch in a space-efficient manner that is so critical to our location in downtown Philadelphia.”
 
As part of the Advance Friends Select: Transformation Campaign, Friends Select is planning a renovation of the rooftop athletic field, including an upgrade of the synthetic turf playing surface using state-of-the-art, environmentally-friendly technology. The surface will include an underlayment shock pad to significantly enhance player safety and a new turf complete with 100% environmentally-friendly natural infill instead of synthetic rubber. Additionally, improvements will include perimeter screen paint, safety padding at the perimeter, renovations to the ball restraints, and new lighting that will enable students and teams to play into the evening.

For more information on supporting the Advance Friends Select: Transformation Campaign, contact Christine Jefferson, chief development officer, at chrisj@friends-select.org or 215.561.5900, x3141 or visit friends-select.org/transformation.