Contested spaces: athletic fields | Gentrification or a planning failure -- revisiting an ongoing issue
In keeping with the theme of the failure to create structural solutions when such are needed...
The Washington Post has an article, "Field wars: Organized league clashes with pickup players in a gentrifying neighborhood," about what we might call "contested space" in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, where a league got permits to use a soccer field, crowding out "unorganized" or "pick up" use of the space.
The Post raises this as an issue of gentrification. It may be, but it's also a matter of parks planning. This came up in nearby Petworth five years ago, and the Post wrote about it then, and I responded, recommending that parks planners step in, and block out some of the schedule for "pick up" use.
"Planning for unplanning: parks and recreation," 11/13/2012
The Post has an article, "Rec leagues vs. Pick-up games: two sides of the playing field," about the use of recreation facilities in the city, and how organized leagues with permits for the use of fields trump the use of fields for "unorganized" pick up athletic activity. The example is soccer.
I understand how government agencies want to minimize their work and conceive of most activities as a regulatory or rationing-type function. If you have facilities ("Assets") you manage them, and ration their use through permits and fees.
On the other hand, a parks and recreation agency could conceive of its mission as enabling the recreation and parks needs of interests of all demographics, systematically, and stepping in to assist various constituencies/demographics when they way that they are accustomed to using facilities doesn't fit with the standard paradigm.
In basketball, it is not uncommon for court time to be scheduled for "pick up" basketball. And in swimming, "open swim" time.
In soccer, in DC, at Petworth, and likely other places, DPR should schedule field use for "pick up" soccer as well, in view of mission goals of serving diverse segments of the population, including those who don't play in leagues.
And in some other jurisdictions, there is more accommodation for this. In Arlington County although they charge, and in NYC, a group PSNYC / Pickup Soccer NYC has organized the unorganized, at least the English speakng ones... And this piece from the New York Times, "Pelada: Pickup, the Essence of a Game," references a book, Finding the Game: Three Years, Twenty-five Countries, and the Search for Pickup Soccer on pickup soccer around the world.
Note that this is an issue across recreation and parks planning. The most organized parks constituencies tend to be people affiliated with team sports and leagues. Without taking extra steps to ensure that other constituencies are represented, it's very easy for recreation planning to end up focused primarily on team sports.