The Rev. Joseph Campellone, president of Father Judge High School, was feeling pretty good about the school during a Thanksgiving eve news conference.
“We have so much to be thankful for,” he said.
Campellone was standing under a tent during a rainy morning during the groundbreaking of what is being called the Ramp Playground Renovation Project.
The playground is located at Rowland and Solly avenues, across the street from the school.
One half of the playground is dedicated to basketball courts, play equipment and a foot hockey rink.
The other half, until recently, consisted of three baseball fields and a football field.
Now, the grass has been ripped out and will be replaced with artificial turf. There will be a baseball field and a multipurpose field, which will be used by Judge’s soccer, lacrosse, rugby and JV and freshman football teams for games and varsity football team for practices.
Local schools and organizations, such as St. Jerome, Crispin Gardens Athletic Club and bar softball leagues, will be able to continue playing there.
The $2.8 million project is a joint venture of Friends of Father Judge High School Inc., the city Department of Parks and Recreation and the office of City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski.
“I’m so excited. This is great news for Northeast Philadelphia,” Campellone said.
Some called the former field the “Dust Bowl” because of the amount of dirt that was kicked up during use.
“It won’t be the Dust Bowl anymore,” Campellone said.
Among those in attendance at the Nov. 23 event were Father Judge athletes wearing their soccer, baseball, lacrosse and football uniforms.
Athletic director Ed Evanitsky was joined by current coaches and retired football coach Whitey Sullivan and baseball coach Joe McDermott. Also on hand was Mike McCloskey, a 1979 Judge graduate who played tight end for Penn State and the old Houston Oilers.
The Rev. James E. Dalton, principal of the school, offered prayers and blessed the ground and work equipment.
Mike DeBerardinis, commissioner of the parks and recreation department, called the collaboration “an exciting project.” He credited deputy commissioner Leo Dignam (Judge Class of 1977) with helping to make the project happen.
City Councilman-elect Bobby Henon said he’s looking forward to attending the grand opening. He graduated from the former North Catholic, which had to use fields elsewhere for games because it didn’t have the luxury of a partnership with a playground across the street.
William St. Clair, a 1975 Judge graduate and owner of the accounting and financial consulting firm CPA Solutions, chairs the Friends of Father Judge.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful project for us,” he said of the field. “We want Father Judge to be here forever. This will help make sure it succeeds.”
The group’s theme, he said, is becoming, “If we dream it, we can do it.”
St. Clair mentioned the William F. Mitchell Activity Center and a resource/guidance center.
Campellone pointed to the Father Brisson Center for Academic Excellence and partnerships with Drexel University and Chestnut Hill College.
St. Clair would like to help bring a science center and a trade skills center to the school.
“Judge is becoming a campus,” he said.
Campellone believes all of the amenities have made Judge the best Catholic school in Philadelphia.
“Even private schools don’t have this,” he said.
Seravalli Contractors Inc. will perform the work.
Brian King, Judge’s director of advancement, explained that most of the work should be completed by the end of February.
There will be netting so baseballs don’t leave the field. New 10-foot-high fencing and portable bleachers, two scoreboards and a home run wall will be added.
The city will continue to own and maintain the property, which will be locked when not in use. The playground will remain named in memory of James J. Ramp, a police officer from nearby Arthur Street who was killed in 1978 in a showdown with the radical group MOVE in Powelton Village.
Dogs will not be permitted on the new field.
King expects the field to be popular for camp and clinic directors. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org