This month the city will seek final designs for a $14 million renovation of Homewood Park, home to Willie Stargell Field and the Homewood Pool. City officials and partners announced the investment last September, when pro football Hall of Famer and Pittsburgh native Curtis Martin helped land funding for a new sports field.
Martin grew up in Homewood and wanted to do something for the neighborhood. He helped draw a commitment of half a million dollars from the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, which builds multi-sport turf fields across the U.S.
But plans for the park predate that commitment by a number of years, said Mubarik Ismaeli, president of Homewood Community Sports, an organization that has mentored youth since the late 1950’s. Ismaeli said the planning envisions a broader community space, with a new pool and design that pays homage to the history of Homewood and its leaders.
“What a lot of people don’t know about Homewood is Willie Stargell’s field has been like the mecca for youth and families in Homewood,” he said. “It’s a place where we come in fellowship.”
Ismaeli said his group and Bridging the Gap Development worked with the city on a request for proposals for the new park. A city spokesperson confirmed that will be released in December.
There was a lot of preliminary work that had to be done on the site, including demolishing a school and moving a pool, said Chuck Brady, vice president of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.
“So we are kind of waiting to hear back from the city as far as when they will be ready for us to come in and build,” he said.
There were other concerns, too, said Ismaeli. Homewood is poised to see more new development, and they want to be sure that Homewood Community Sports isn’t displaced as an organization.
“Even though it’s not happening as fast as we want it to, we have been given word by the mayor and everyone else that it’s going to happen,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for this since the 1950s, so another year or two is not going to hurt to wait.”
Pittsburgh’s proposed 2020 capital budget holds $3.5 million for the project. In addition, the city has state money, and officials say they are confident they will be able to close any funding gap with corporate and foundation support.