Neighborhood Visionary: Tabernacle Field

Tab-231x300Just north of Downtown Indianapolis, on the corner of Central Avenue and 34th Street, sits Tabernacle Presbyterian Church. Founded in 1924, TAB, as it’s commonly known, is more than a place to worship on Sundays. It’s a community anchor in the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood. For decades, TAB has provided a safe place for area kids—many of them from low-income homes—to play and socialize.

Throughout the years the church’s large athletic field has been particularly popular among children. From early morning until late night, kids have flocked there to play lacrosse, football, soccer, and other sports. And these days, the field’s use is at an all-time high thanks to recent renovations that have made it one of the finest playing fields in the city.

The new field features state-of-the-art artificial turf, making it both beautiful and extremely safe. The turf is made of rubber microfilaments—a recent innovation that makes for a softer surface and protects athletes from hard, sun-baked dirt or slippery mud.

“Our athletic field here at TAB is made out of the same materials used by many professional sports teams,” said TAB Recreation Director Ben Hughes. “That means it’s durable, soft, and above all, safe. We’re excited we can give our neighborhood’s kids the chance to enjoy a field like this, because it’s pretty unusual to have such an amazing field designated for youth recreation.”

The dream of TAB Field wouldn’t have been possible if it hadn’t been for a few key individuals who pushed to make it a reality. One of these people was John Byers, former Recreation Director at TAB Church.

John initially hoped to make just a few small improvements to the old TAB athletic field, including new lights, fencing, and spectator seating. But when John met with former Indianapolis Colts offensive tackle Tarik Glenn, the project really took off.

“Tarik’s vision for TAB Field was much larger than mine,” John said. “After he proposed it, I knew it would be a special project.” Tarik put John in touch with the  NFL Grassroots Program, a nationwide urban youth recreation program in  partnership with LISC that kick-started fundraising for the field by providing a $200,000 grant to TAB Church.

After TAB received the grant, the rest of the pieces began to fall into place. Among them was a major contribution from Republic Services, who provided a project manager, excavated the field, and filled the foundation with crushed stone to ensure the field was level. Meanwhile, Tarik and his Dream Alive Foundation donated brand-new youth football equipment such as helmets and shoulder pads.

“This is a project we did for the kids of our community,” John said. “Of course, adults use it too, but our main goal was to continue TAB’s rich tradition of providing our community’s youth with a safe, fun place to play.”

John credits LISC for making the field a reality. “LISC provided us with the critical advice and funding we needed to get this project done right.” And even more improvements to the field are on the way.

“Over the next few years, we’ll continue to improve our outdoor structures, including spectator seating, restrooms, and concessions stands,” he said. “By the time it’s all completed, it’s going to be an incredible achievement—one that will benefit our community, especially the kids, for years to come.”