Councilman discusses possible renovations at Fox Chase Recreation Center

The Fox Chase Recreation Center is in the midst of some major renovations, but City Councilman Brian O’Neill is already thinking about the next big capital project for one of the city’s largest public playgrounds.

During a meeting of the Fox Chase Homeowners Association and Town Watch on Sept. 14, O’Neill said that the rec center could use two additional basketball courts to accommodate a new youth basketball league hosted there. In addition, he’s proposing that the city resurface the center’s two existing outdoor basketball courts as well as its two outdoor roller hockey rinks.

The youth league has been a hit in its first season, attracting 400 players, O’Neill said. But the asphalt basketball courts that they use are deteriorating with cracks in the pavement. So are the hockey rinks. All four courts have lighting.

One possible snag to the expansion idea is that the new courts would have to be built on school district property. The rec center abuts Fox Chase Elementary School, which has a large paved parking lot. Several homes on the 700 block of Ripley St. also abut the rec center and school yard, although there is a fence and sloping grassy area separating the public spaces from the private yards.

Separately, long-awaited renovations to the rec center’s water spray system and paved walkways are on hold as officials look for ways to reduce the cost of the project. The latest estimate for the work is $500,000, O’Neill said.

In yet another project at the rec center, a new mural dedicated to fallen Firefighter Daniel Sweeney is expected to debut next spring. That would coincide with the opening of the baseball and softball season. The mural depicting Sweeney, who was a Fox Chase native, will overlook the ball field named in his memory.

At nearby Burholme Park, renovations to a playground equipment area should be complete by Thanksgiving, O’Neill said.

O’Neill further reported that his office will host free document shredding at the FOP Lodge 5, 11630 Caroline Road, on Oct. 1. It will also collect recyclables and distribute recycling bins on Oct. 15 at O’Neill’s Fox Chase office, 432 Rhawn St.

Fox Chase Elementary School Principal Rob Caroselli told residents that he has two projects in the works. He hopes to team with other neighborhood schools to organize a 5k race and family fun walk fundraiser. The event would support programming at schools in the area. A date has not been chosen for the inaugural running, but Caroselli thinks it could be held on a new recreation trail from Lorimer Park in Huntingdon Valley to the Fox Chase train station along a former commuter rail line.

Caroselli also wants to install an arboretum on the 16-acre school campus. The trees would overlook Ridgeway Street and replace a wrought iron fence. They would serve as a living outdoor classroom in support of the school’s agriculture curriculum.

Matt Keeley, who manages the American Legion Post 366 hall at 7976 Oxford Ave., invited residents to attend Friday night bingo games at the hall. The cost is $2 per game or $20 for the night. A cash bar is available. The games raise money for the Legion post. ••