Transforming the Rooftop Athletic Field

Tina Dougherty

Full Select News

The transformation of Friends Select’s Parkway Building continued with improvements to the iconic rooftop athletic field. The renovation to the 50,000-square-foot facility included a new synthetic turf playing surface with an impact-absorbing shock pad and an environmentally responsible organic infill—as opposed to synthetic rubber pellets. In addition to the new playing surface, expanded areas of safety padding were added along the perimeter, a new water fountain with a bottle filler were installed, spectator seating was expanded, and a cutting-edge PanaView® multi-sport, wireless scoreboard was installed.

Mike Rufo, president of Anchor Management, has worked with Friends Select on the Advance Friends Select: Transformation Campaign projects and facilitated the work on the roof. “The shock pad provides a surface that is proven to substantially reduce head-to-ground concussions while the use of cork in lieu of rubber demonstrates the school’s commitment to sustainability through the use of renewable material and environmentally sensitive products,” he said. “The difference the new state-of-the-art, synthetic turf system brings to the facility is a renewed institutional commitment to both the safety of students and the use of sustainable products.”

The roof of the Parkway Building is an essential element of Friends Select’s athletic program. It has served as the longtime home site of the field hockey teams as well as the setting for various athletic camps and workshops. Athletic director Bill Klose P’21, ’25 sees the developments to the outdoor space as an investment in athletics that ultimately benefits Friends Select as a whole. “Top-notch facilities create a positive impression of our school, not only to the visiting teams and officials, but also outside families,” he explained. “The updates show that our hard work and dedication to building successful programs are noticed and supported. They bring a sense of pride to our student athletes and coaches and allow us to represent our school at a higher level.”

Assistant varsity field hockey coach and middle school squash chaperone Mariko Cummings ’04 attended Friends Select for both middle and upper school and remembers the roof as a motivating factor in her joining the field hockey program. “My sibling played field hockey at FSS for two years before I attended, so I knew when I came to the school that I wanted to play hockey on that cool roof too,” she said. “Our turf roof is such a draw for the school and our field hockey team, so much so that some teams will come to play us on our turf field every year and we never have to play away games with them. It’s so unique and they love the city views.”

As an option for outdoor classrooms, the spacious rooftop was an invaluable resource in allowing Friends Select to safely return to in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also frequently used as a gathering area for students, faculty, and staff, and allowed them to socialize while maintaining a safe distance. The community still utilizes the roof in this way, and it enables students to get time outdoors without having to leave the building. “I love how the school has made the roof such a good place for us to hang out or just sit there and chat,” shared upper school student Alice Zhang ’25. “My friends and I really like to sit up there and eat lunch outside.”

Because of its size, the roof is the only space at Friends Select large enough to accommodate the entire school community at the same time. It is therefore the site of many all-school celebrations, divisional milestones such as Move-up Day and College Signing Day, and alumni gatherings. In late April, Alice performed acoustic guitar as part of the upper school Lab Band at the Spring Fair. It was the first time since the start of the pandemic that Friends Select held the Spring Fair and Alumni Weekend, and they were joyously celebrated by over 400 attendees, from current students and families to generations of graduates to current and former employees.

To showcase the newly-updated field and accommodate these events, the roof was used as a festival space that included family-friendly activities such as sand art crafts, face painting, and bounce houses. It also featured the event’s “Skytop Theater and Outdoor Lounge,” the performance area for Alice and her bandmates. “It was a great honor to play for alumni, especially when I got positive reactions from them,” Alice reflected. “It was an interesting experience to perform on the roof, because I’ve never played guitar outside. It made me feel like we’re a real, professional band.”

Additional upgrades to the rooftop are also being considered, given the importance of this space for the Friends Select community. “The Spring Fair was a hint of the possibilities for the rooftop space and what it can provide for the school. The overall response from our extended community has reinforced the roof as an important piece of the Transformation Campaign,” said Michael Gary, head of school. “The magnificence of the space, with its upgrades, is emblematic of the transformation that continues at Friends Select.”