play / 2016

LA Fields for Dreams - Turning Asphalt to Turf (providing safe places to play)

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by America Scores LA

Turning school playgrounds from black top to green turf to provide a safe surface for children to experience team sports without the fear of injury.


Please describe your project proposal.

The sad reality is that children in low-income public schools spend most of their recreation time on unsafe and unsightly asphalt playgrounds. Skinned knees and injuries are all too common. And many children, particularly girls, rarely participate at all. ASLA’s vision for Los Angeles is for all children to have access to high-quality sports and enrichment programs and safe places to play regardless of families’ income levels.

Which of the play metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Access to open space and park facilities
  • Attendance at major league sporting events
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play
  • Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park
  • Per capita crime rates
  • Perceived safety

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • LAUSD

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to play?

We would like to replicate the successful model created by America SCORES Bay Area (ASBA) and bring the Fields for Dreams initiative to Los Angeles.

Need: Currently, low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles lack safe spaces for children and families to gather and engage in physical activity and play. The actual or perceived safety of the environment is linked with an individual’s inclination to engage in physical activity and play. Crime and fear of crime are also barriers to physical activity and play. These barriers are further amplified when examining how they impact the behaviors of children and youth. “Safety concerns play an important role in how people respond to the built environment, with perception and fear of crime an important contributor to inactivity. Signs of disorderliness, such as broken windows, cue children to feel unsafe at school. Children of parents who report anxiety about neighborhood safety get less physical activity.”1

The creation of safe turf play spaces where there is currently asphalt will change the built environment of underserved LA neighborhoods and increase physical activity of its residents, thus reducing the risk among adults to develop chronic diseases like heart disease and type II diabetes while reducing the risk in children to become overweight and/or obese. In addition, safe places to gather and play, build connection community and increase the social capital of neighborhood residents.2

1 Tester, JM; Committee on Environmental Health. The built environment: designing communities to promote physical activity in children. Pediatrics. 2009; 123(6); 1591‐1598.

2 Leyden, K. Social capital and the built environment: The importance of walkable neighborhoods. American Journal of Public Health. 2003; 93 (9), 1546-1551.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Evaluation plans: ASLA plans to work with current partner, LAUSD, to devise an appropriate evaluation plan. Proposed measurements include: school enrollment and school choice data, playground injury frequency, ASLA program enrollment and waitlist, and key informant interviews pre and post field creation. ASLA also plans to partner with local universities to recruit interns to assist with data collection. Anecdotal observations from staff at ASBA’s Field of Dreams school sites suggest that there is an association between improved aesthetics and reduced crime. For example, the staff has observed that by repairing a decrepit blacktop and replacing it with a brand new turf field embossed with the school logos has resulted in a decrease in graffiti and a reduction in equipment theft. This suggests that it is worth exploring appropriate measurements to examine the relationship between the installation of fields and decreased vandalism and petty theft at both the sites and environs.

Long term outcomes: The Fields for Dreams initiative links community development with youth development. The creation of green spaces for the entire school and neighborhood promotes physical activity, sports programs, and community gatherings. These 3 new fields will provide ASLA with dedicated and safe spaces to operate camps and other youth development activities for years to come, while also providing a gathering place for community members of all ages.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Advisors/board members
  • Staff
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles etc.)
  • Education/training
  • Technical infrastructure (computers etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support
  • Quality improvement research