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Friends of Cione, ORCA Discuss the Pros and Cons of a Roman Catholic-backed Field

The Friends of Cione Playground community organization is negotiating a deal with Roman Catholic High School to fund a new turf field at the park on Lehigh and Aramingo to be used for soccer, lacrosse, and football. The expected cost of the field is valued at $1 million.

On Wednesday, April 20th, The Friends of Cione (FOC) held a community meeting in the rec center on the park premises. Brian White, President of the FOC, led the meeting.

Cione Mural

“I want to make clear that this deal with Roman will not go through without community support,” he said. “They don’t want it if we don’t want it.”

Since many details concerning the deal are still pending, there is some skepticism. Don Gould, President of the Olde Richmond Civic Association (ORCA), voiced his concerns.

“This is a community playground,” he said. “And that’s the first thing it should be.” Gould was referring to a stipulation in the deal that states if Roman funds the field, their teams will have priority to practice on the field from 2-6PM several days per week. Whether this means that absolutely no one else would be able to use the field during these hours is still unclear.

Cione Playground Field

Jim Hardy, coach for the Kensington High School soccer team and Kensington Soccer Club, noted that the new schedule may displace some of his practices. White assured the audience that Roman would work with all teams and clubs who use the field to make sure everyone would have a place to practice. However, some of these practices might have to be moved to nearby fields other than Cione.  

Another issue of contention was that, if this deal goes through, the baseball field will be removed. The club teams that currently use the field would be relocated to nearby fields. One woman in attendance was worried about the kids who come to Cione to play pickup games. Another attendee quickly assured her that “that hasn’t happened in years,” a response that was met with mild laughter from the rest of those gathered.

Cione Playground Baseball Field

However, despite some doubts, the general sentiment in the meeting seemed to be one of cautious optimism. Attendees speculated on the benefits of having $1 million field at their beloved park. The attention it would surely bring to Cione seemed attractive. Currently, due to a lack of funds for staff, the playground is not open on Saturdays. More events being held at the park could ensure longer hours of operation.

The necessity of agreement between the neighborhood and Roman Catholic was also discussed.

“I want to make clear that if this deal does not go through, we don’t have the money or the fundraising power to do this on our own,” White reminded the audience. “That being said, this is entirely up to you all. Again, if you don’t want it, I don’t want it, Roman doesn’t want it.”

The meeting on the issue is scheduled for Thursday, May 19th at 7:30 PM. Representatives from Roman Catholic will present the initial plans for the field. There is a possibility, depending on how much ground is covered at this meeting, that the vote on the proposal will be held that same night. The FOC encourages all residents of Olde Richmond to attend and voice their opinion.

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