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Milwaukee Recreation to renovate 52 playfields


By Brian Foley, Web Content Specialist

On Wednesday, May 2, the Milwaukee Public Schools Department of Recreation and Community Services (Milwaukee Recreation) launched its initiative to renovate and modernize 52 playfields around the city. With the help of local organizations, the business community, and residents, the goal is to level the playing field and transform neighborhood playfields, many of which were built in the 1920s and 1930s and have not been refurbished since their inception.

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,” Milwaukee Recreation senior director Lynn Greb said. 

The four playfields to undergo the first round of construction include Burnham Playfield, Columbia Playfield, Custer Playfield, and Southgate Playfield. “By next summer, we will have four vibrant playfields that will have a profound impact on these neighborhoods,” Greb said.

Watch the video below for a full scope of the state of Milwaukee playfields, featuring Columbia Playfield on the north side of the city.

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.

Milwaukee Recreation looks to break ground at Columbia, Custer, and Southgate this fall, with Burnham soon to follow in 2019. Milwaukee Public Schools will also break ground on a new athletic stadium at Vincent High School on Thursday, May 10, which will eventually join the two other multi-use stadiums – Custer and South – that were also built within the last few years.  The new Vincent Stadium will provide student-athletes with the ideal venue within which to compete, as well as the opportunity to host WIAA tournaments for football, soccer, and track.

PlayfieldsUpdating each playfield is the immediate goal for Milwaukee Recreation, but the ultimate objective is to bring the community together through memorable recreational and educational experiences for people of all ages.

“This has to be an experience where everyone has access and a point of entry,” Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent Darienne Driver said. “It’s about more than just the space. It’s about bringing families together.”

Milwaukee Recreation has been dedicated to serving southeastern Wisconsin for over 100 years, and renovating these crucial community playfields is just the next step for the City of Milwaukee. “Everyone deserves a safe place to play,” Greb said.

Come play with us! We need your support!

Collectively, MPS has already committed $11 million towards the improvement of play spaces and athletic facilities, but we cannot do it alone. Please see our donation card for opportunities to get involved in this work and be part of an investment that matters. Thank you for your help!


Stephen Davis, Media Relations Manager
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