The North Philly Aztecs football team has been a vital presence in Hunting Park since 1993, but the Aztecs haven’t played a home football game in 19 years because of the poor conditions at their field.
However, the Aztecs will host a home game next season on a brand new, state of the art field thanks to funds from the Fairmont Park Conservancy, the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation and the Philadelphia Eagles professional football team.
Opening this new field not only services Aztecs players, cheerleaders and coaches, it represents the capstone project for Phase One of the multi-million dollar Hunting Park Revitalization. Phase One projects include new playgrounds, lighting upgrades and a community garden at the 87-acre park that gives the community its name.
“It’s a shot in the arm for the community,” Aztec coach Leroy Fisher said.
Fisher, who is also president of Hunting Park United civic association, said the new football field “lets the kids [and] the community know that someone cares.”
The Aztecs currently have over 400 football players on nine teams. The hope is the new field will attract even more members. “When they see the lights shine on Hunting Park, they come and want to be apart of something special,” Fisher said.
The Hunting Park Revitalization, Fisher said, will help in the process of countering conditions contributing to the crime and violence hobbling the community. The Aztecs are doing their part as well.
“It destroys the negative reputation that this community sometimes gets and it brings to light and highlights the great things that are happening,” Fisher said.
The Aztecs football program serves as a forum for kids to not only play but to keep them off the streets. “They can come enjoy good football, learn life lessons and be around wonderful mentors,” another Aztec coach, Andre Goldsmith said.
The Aztec program has generated much success on the field. In 2004 the Aztecs won Division II Jr. Pee Wee Tomlin Championship at the Pop Warner Super Bowl.
“The program is wonderful. I love it and I love being a part of it,” Goldsmith said. “There is no place I’d rather be in the world than coaching and mentoring young minds.”