By Hadli Joyce, Staff Writer
Moody Field has always been just out of reach. Payton students would look straight from the West Gym window out onto a large field, right outside the school, that couldn’t be used. The gates were locked and the grass often occupied by a flock of Canadian geese. If anyone mentioned the words, “Moody Field,” there was an immediate response as it sparked grievances all around. After all, not having a football field at Walter Payton College Prep (a school named after the great football player) was a sore subject. The proximity to Moody Field could be frustrating to Payton athletes who had to travel to other facilities in order to practice every day. Moody Bible’s soccer team practices right outside the school, providing even more of a desire to use the field, as Payton sports teams had to oblige and watch from the side. Yet not anymore. On January 18th, 2022, the Payton Local School Council meeting yielded positive results: Principal Shabazz-Anderson announced that after extensive negotiations, Payton received access to the field for the Spring season. Anticipation grew and spring soccer athletes patiently awaited their chance to use the field.
Finally, Moody Field was no longer out of reach. Poor weather and constant rain had delayed maintenance to the field, but on April 19th, Moody Field was turned from an unkept patch back into a grass soccer field. The delicate nature of a grass field means that it needs more attention than a turf field. Holes and divots in the grass interrupt the speed of a game and increase the likelihood of someone twisting their ankle or injuring themselves by accident. Even with the many flaws of Moody Field, the excitement of being able to use a field right outside the school outweighed many concerns. Goals were set up and sidelines drawn. Although not as big as Lane Stadium, the Moody Field became a real soccer pitch. Playing on grass has downsides, but when it is properly managed it can be just as good as any turf field. In fact, most professional soccer leagues prefer to play on grass rather than synthetic turf.
Benefits of having a field that belongs to Payton go well beyond access for student-athletes, but affect school pride. After all, Lane Tech has access to Lane Stadium, Clark Park Turf Field, and Kerry Wood Stadium. Whitney Young finished its creation of the Michelle Obama Athletic Complex right in front of the school and Jones also has its own field (though far from the campus). All the most notable CPS athletic schools have sports facilities. For Payton to be able to join that select group is a major step for the school’s reputation as an athletic competitor, but also its school spirit.
Moody Field allows for much excitement, especially for the girls soccer teams. According to Thalia Witkovsky, a junior on Payton’s girls varsity soccer team, commuting is no longer an issue: “We are able to start practice right away so we get a longer practice- less time commuting and more time playing!” Commuting can be difficult, especially for players who don’t have access to car rides or public transportation. One field that Payton often uses is the North Avenue Turf field. Though not far from the school, the field is also shared with the Latin School of Chicago. As Latin has priority usage of the field, practices are oftentimes cut short to cater to their schedule. Players are now allowed more time to play and at a location that they get to every day thanks to the addition of Payton’s new field. These positives outweigh the downsides of a bumpy grass field, but even then according to Thalia Witkovsky, “playing on actual grass forces us [soccer players] to be more intelligent when we play and it will make us more prepared to play against other teams in any condition”.
Practices began in early March, but the first official game played on Moody Field by Payton sports was on Friday, May 13th. The Payton girls varsity soccer team played Northside College Prep at 4:30. They marked the first game on the field with a Payton victory!