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                              Caroline Goldstein, LISC Chicago



LISC, Mayor Celebrate Reopening of Altgeld Park Field 

Altgeld marks 10th playing field completed by LISC Chicago and partners

(CHICAGO, October 8, 2012)—Transforming dusty, bumpy football and soccer fields into state of the art athletic facilities for more than a decade, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago (LISC) celebrated the latest Chicago one on Saturday with the grand opening of a field at Altgeld Park on Chicago’s West Side. LISC was joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, dozens of young athletes and their coaches, as well as partners from the Chicago Park District, the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation and Chicago Hope Academy.

With the help of a $200,000 grant from LISC and spearheaded by the Park District’s “Take the Field” initiative, the field at Altgeld Park in the 500 block of South Washtenaw Avenue underwent a complete renovation, with artificial turf surface, new lighting and fully designed for football, soccer, rugby, baseball, little league and softball. The new synthetic turf field replaces a natural grass field that required frequent maintenance and was useless in bad weather. The new field allows for nearly year-round play and is expected to reduce the incidence of injury among young players, as well as lowering maintenance costs.

At the pre-game ceremony, Mayor Emanuel praised the work of LISC and its partners for their work in creating community spaces that provide young people with healthy opportunities.

“There is nothing more important than investing in our kids,” said Emanuel, citing the new field as an excellent resource for students at Chicago Hope Academy, as well as for youth and their parents in the surrounding East Garfield Park and Altgeld neighborhoods. The renovation at the Park District’s Altgeld Park, he said, was of a piece with other park improvements throughout the city, and with the conversion of an abandoned rail line on the Northwest Side into the Bloomingdale Trail (Chicago’s version of New York’s High Line, he called it) and new boathouses that will be constructed along the Chicago River. The efforts, on behalf of community organizations and others, help ensure, he said, that “our children have places to play and learn.”

The renovation of Altgeld Field is just the latest manifestation of LISC’s ongoing efforts to improve and expand green space and athletic opportunities for Chicago youth. Since 1998, a unique partnership between LISC and the NFL Grassroots Program (supported locally through the Chicago Bears) has provided $1.5 million, which has leveraged another $11.2 million to renovate 10 Chicago area football fields, often in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools or the Chicago Park District. Nationally, the NFL/LISC partnership has resulted in the creation or rehab of more than 250 community football fields across the country.

Using sports as a means of community development is a concept pioneered by LISC in Chicago. Through a variety of neighborhood-based programs, LISC promotes healthy and active lifestyles for youth which, ultimately, builds healthier and more vibrant communities. Organized sports create positive alternatives to gang activity in addition to providing young people with opportunities to build confidence and work on a team.

“Engaging kids and families through sports brings neighborhoods together, which in turn, can serve to reduce crime,” said Susana Vasquez, LISC Chicago’s executive director. “New fields, parks and sports teams give all residents something to cheer for.”

About LISC Chicago 

 LISC Chicago organizes capital and other resources to support initiatives that stimulate the comprehensive development of healthy, stable neighborhoods and foster their connection to the socioeconomic mainstream of the metropolitan region.  Since 1980, LISC Chicago has infused more than $196 million into housing, human and economic development projects, leveraging a total of $4.8 billion in aggregate community investment.  The results are quantifiable: with LISC support nearly 30,000 units of affordable housing and 5 million square feet of commercial space have been developed and more than 20,000 Chicago residents have been engaged in planning, provided training, or direct service to improve their quality of life.