At the Bok building this fall, you won’t only be able to grab dinner or drinks or take a yoga class with skyline views. You’ll also be able to play soccer.
A rooftop soccer field is coming soon to an unused seventh-floor terrace at the historic South Philadelphia building, as part of plans first reported by Axios and confirmed to The Inquirer Friday by Zac Rubin, executive director of New York-based U90 Soccer Center.
On lower levels inside the building, he said, U90 is constructing another field; a soccer retail store run by New Jersey-based apparel chain Soccer Post, where patrons can customize gear; and a lounge with TVs and gaming.
“What I’ve found in speaking to members of the Philadelphia soccer community: There is a significant lack of recreational space in metro Philadelphia, just space for kids, adults, people to play sports of all kinds,” Rubin said. “So we’re going to look to step into that need.”
The indoor components should be open by early fall, he added, with the outdoor field and adjacent deck space to open shortly after.
Over the past eight years, the Bok building has been transformed from a vacant former vocational school to a workspace for 140 tenants, many of whom are artists. It is home to the highly Instagrammable Bok Bar, as well as Irwin’s and several other eateries, and regularly hosts community events. Bok Bar and Irwin’s are on the eighth floor, and will not be affected by the new additions on the seventh.
About two years ago, Rubin was visiting a Bok building tenant, and, out of habit, checked the available listings. He signed the lease about a year ago, he said, and has talked to stakeholders in the Philadelphia soccer community to learn how the space could make the most positive impact.
Rubin said he envisions a place that is used similarly to U90′s current complex in Queens. There, he said, adults pay to play soccer in the early mornings. Then, programs geared toward children take place during the day, he said, and from about 7 pm to midnight, the fields are used for pickup games and soccer league matches, as well as by groups who rent the space for private events.
Adults will be able to reserve a spot in pickup games for a fee using the app Just Play, Rubin said, while leagues will book directly with U90 for longer-term use.
U90 plans to make the center accessible to all, regardless of one’s ability to pay or play, he said. It will utilize grant programs, he said, and work with local sponsors on programming for adults and children, including the K-8 students who attend Southwark School across the street.
At the Queens facility, the fields are also used for wheelchair soccer, Rubin said, and next week, U90 will host a soccer camp for children with ambulatory cerebral palsy, stroke, and traumatic brain injury. He said he hopes similar programs can be established at the Philadelphia location.
“We work on a model where we, within reason, never turn somebody away,” he said. “We try to make the space and the programming we run inclusive in every way.”
The indoor and outdoor five-a-side fields are smaller in size than traditional soccer fields, which not only work well for urban spaces but also are ideal for teaching the game to the next generation, he said.
And yes, the outdoor field will have cage netting, he said, so balls don’t go flying down into the South Philadelphia streets.
Rubin said he is hopeful the soccer center will help bring the sport to a community that he has found is “drastically underserved,” with few soccer fields and soccer-specific stores in the area, he said. He also plans to host watch parties for the World Cup, which starts in November.
Overall, the goal, he said, is to “provide something that is both unique and completely lacking in South Philadelphia.”