The Western Edition: City Fields Foundation helps renovate Kimbell Park playfields

Located on the corner of Steiner and O’Farrell Streets, Raymond Kimbell Park is one of the most highly used play areas on the north side of San Francisco, and until recently it was one of the most dilapidated, due to constant overuse of the fields combined with the abusive weather of the city.

However, as one of 23 sites identified as candidates for renovation by the Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond passed by San Francisco in 2008, Kimbell Park is finally getting the attention it deserves – with a complete overhaul of the sports fields that was completed in 2010, and a plan to fix up the playground area currently in the works.

With money from the bond, as well as financial assistance from the City Fields Foundation – a nonprofit that works to address the shortage of playing fields in San Francisco – the hole-riddled dirt fields of Kimbell that were constantly closed due to rain and overuse have been replaced with synthetic turf, stadium lights, bleacher seating, and even a batting cage – transforming the Park into what former Mayor Gavin Newsom called at the opening ceremony, “hands down one of the best sports fields in the city, if not the Bay Area.”

“Five years ago we went out and took inventory of all the athletic fields, and we got together a host of youth organizations, recreation organizations, and park organizations, and we actually went through this entire list and said, ‘which ones make sense?’” said Patrick Hannan, the director of communications for City Fields. He added, “We primarily looked at athletic fields that were in poor condition either due to overuse, or were just in poor condition and underutilized. Our goal is to provide play spaces for kids.”

City Fields estimates that their renovations have increased the time that Kimbell Playground fields are usable to around 3,580 hours a year, which greatly benefits many youth sports programs utilizing these fields, most notably the Seahawks football and cheer programs run by the Police Activities League – PAL – of San Francisco, who use Kimbell Park as headquarters.

“We’ve been playing at Kimbell field since 1959,” said PAL Director Lorraine Woodruff-Long. “The Seahawks program goes from August to just after Thanksgiving, so if it rains on a grass field we can’t play because the parks need to rest. We didn’t get rained out one day last year. That’s the first time in 50 years that has ever happened.”

Aside from the Seahawks programs, Kimbell Park is also frequently used as a playing surface for lacrosse, soccer, softball, and baseball programs.
As one of 12 fields converted to turf by the City Fields Foundation in the last five years, Kimbell is now one of several new locations that adult and youth sports programs are able to rely upon in the city, allowing them to accept more registrants.

“This past spring, after the Giants won the World Series, little league had signups and registration went through the roof,” said Hannan. “They had to close registration six weeks early because they hit a capacity for the number of fields they would have. It seems wrong that any kid with $20 can jump on a streetcar and go down and watch a professional baseball game, and yet that same kid may not be able to play that game as part of a youth sports team.”

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