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Milwaukee Recreation breaks ground for upcoming playfield renovations

Playfield GroundbreakingOn Saturday, Oct. 6, Milwaukee Recreation continued its citywide playfield renovation project by breaking ground at the Columbia Playfield in front of dozens of community members, MPS representatives, recreation staffers, and local children who will reap the benefits of the revamped park.

While Milwaukee Recreation held Saturday's groundbreaking at Columbia Playfield, the event marked the kickoff for construction at two other playfields - Custer and Southgate - as well. All three playfields will be ready for play by next summer; a fourth park, Burnham Playfield, will be ready by the summer of 2020.

"I kind of feel like I'm in a dream," Milwaukee Recreation senior director Lynn Greb said to open Saturday's event. "This has been a long time coming that we are officially breaking ground on our playfield projects."

In 2014, Milwaukee Recreation retained a consultant to conduct a review of the existing facilities and provide a roadmap for improvements to the playfields spanning a 10-year timeframe. The result was the Milwaukee Outdoor Recreation Facilities Master Plan.

The plan rated 65 percent of the facilities as fair to poor, and identified more than $25 million in needed improvements over a 10-year span.  However, in lieu of merely assessing the condition of each site, Milwaukee Recreation also analyzed the neighborhood and population characteristics surrounding each playfield and developed a priority list of projects that emphasized racial and economic equity.

“We now have an equitable way to prioritize the renovation projects and truly level the playing field in our city,” Greb said.

 

While each project will be designed to meet the needs and interests of the surrounding community, most of the work will include asphalt removal, installation of shade trees, walking areas, improved playground equipment, and basketball courts. Additional lighting, benches, shade structures, and trash receptacles will also be added to the sites, and several locations will include eco-friendly splash pads. Watch this video for the full plans surrounding this project.

"We are excited [for] the work that is about to begin here on this renovation project throughout the City of Milwaukee," MPS superintendent Dr. Keith P. Posley said. "Milwaukee Public Schools is committed to making sure that all of our recreation facilities and programs... [are] high quality for our students and wonderful residents." Posley also mentioned the recently renovated Custer Stadium and South Stadium, as well as the soon-to-be-completed Vincent Stadium project, as additional examples of MPS' investment in athletic and recreation amenities in the city.

Prior to Saturday's groundbreaking, several neighborhood kids were playing catch and showing off their impressive handles with a basketball on the pavement in front of the MPS podium. Even though the completed project is still several months away for the Columbia neighborhood, it was certainly a glimpse into what the renovated playfields will bring to families across Milwaukee in the future.

Alonzo Miller understands the impact this project will have as much as anyone, as he has now served as the Columbia play leader for two decades. "It's mindboggling," Miller said about the plans for Columbia Playfield as he looked over what construction had already taken place beside him at the park. "I can't wait to see that," he said, excitedly pointing at the finished model on the banner. Miller is not alone. There is already plenty of excitement for the renovated playfields, and the buzz will only continue to grow as the calendar inches closer to the summer of 2019 for the official unveiling of Milwaukee's latest gems.

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