Saturday, October 3, 2020
In the fall of 2018, Milwaukee Recreation began work to redesign and rebuild its playfields by breaking ground at the first three sites to be transformed: Columbia, Custer, and Southgate. Southgate Playfield reopened in Aug. 2020, making it the third playfield to showcase Milwaukee Recreation’s playfield redevelopment mission.
Due to restrictions brought on by COVID-19, Milwaukee Recreation found a creative way to announce the reopening - a virtual ribbon-cutting video. The video features appearances by Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) Superintendent Dr. Keith Posley; MPS School Board President Larry Miller; MPS School Board Director Paula Phillips; Milwaukee Recreation Senior Director Lynn Greb; and Alderman Scott Spiker.
“We wanted to find a fun way to show off this beautiful new play space,” Greb said. “We hoped that by creating this video in place of an in-person ceremony, the community will be able to see just how much has changed at Southgate. It has transformed into an oasis for all to enjoy, even while physical distancing.”
The full playfield renovation included asphalt removal and the installation of a new natural turf playfield, shade trees, a walking loop, playground equipment, basketball hoops, and a splash play area. New and upgraded site amenities were also added, including lighting, benches, and trash receptacles.
The fieldhouse will be upgraded in 2021.
Many of Milwaukee Recreation’s playfields were built in the 1920s and 1930s. The existing outdoor recreation system is comprised of 52 active use playfields encompassing more than 300 acres of programmed space. The majority of these sites serve as neighborhood scale parks with traditional recreational facilities such as ballfields, tot lots, tennis courts, fieldhouses, and general open space.
In 2014, the department retained a consultant to conduct a review of its existing facilities and provide a roadmap for improvements to the playfields. 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. The department then analyzed the neighborhood and population characteristics surrounding each playfield to create a priority list of projects that emphasized racial and economic equity.
To learn more about Milwaukee Recreation’s efforts to transform its playfields, visit mkerec.net/PlayfieldRenovation.