Playground 2000 will be remodeled to accommodate people who use wheelchairs and interactive sensory equipment. The park's sidewalks and parking lot will also get a makeover, city officials said.
Sensory features will allow children of all abilities, including those with autism and attention deficit disorder, to play together at the new playground.
These changes have been made possible due to a recent $500,000 Local Parks and Recreation Fund matching grant awarded by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, according to the release.
Another $500,000 was funded by the city for park improvements, bringing the project’s total to $1 million.
“With that grant money we’re going to replace Playground 2000 and put in an all-inclusive playground in its place,” Springfield Parks and Recreation Director Terry Martin said.
Pickleball sees massive growth
Two new pickleball courts and brand-new restroom and pavilion facilities are among other anticipated updates for the park, Martin said.
There are a few pickleball courts currently hiding in plain sight around town, and community members can play on a court in the recreation center. But, Martin said, “it’s not permanent, it’s painted lines and we’ve got nets we set up for anybody that’s interested in playing.”
There’s a second pickleball court on the tennis court at Garner Street Park that will be improved.
“The lines were there, but they had to bring their own net and of course that’s not a favorable thing for everybody to do to have to bring their own nets,” he said.
Pickleball, a racket or paddle sport like tennis, has exploded in popularity in recent years. It was even named the fastest-growing sport in America for the third year in 2023, according to Pickleheads.
About 36.5 million people played Pickleball in the U.S. last year. That’s more than football and basketball combined, as about 32.2 million people played either in 2022, according to Pickleheads.
“I think it’s going to be very successful, and I know the mayor’s excited because the mayor likes to play pPickleball,” Martin said, referencing Springfield Mayor Ann Schneider.
Robertson County’s first skatepark
The park improvements come as city officials expect to break ground on the county’s first skatepark next month.
Springfield’s Parks and Recreation Department officials met with representatives of Hunger Skateparks at the future skatepark site about two weeks ago, Martin said, saying “they informed us at the onsite visit that they would be ready to break ground in mid-to-late October.”
Construction is estimated to take only 100 days, weather permitting, Martin said.
Until the new skatepark is completed at Garner Street Park, skaters will have to rely on nearby skateparks in Portland, Hendersonville, Gallatin and Nashville.
Kiwanis of Springfield has raised most of the project's estimated $220,000 – $240,000 cost, Martin said. Other contributions include funds from the city and a $15,000 grant from Tony Hawk's non-profit The Skatepark Project.
Project officials organized a GoFundMe webpage to collect additional funds "to build the all-concrete park with features that will make it fun and attractive to skaters of all ages and abilities," according to the fundraising platform. As of Thursday, $67,241 was raised of its $75,000 goal.
“If you’re interested in seeing how a skatepark is built, we encourage you to come down whenever we get started,” Martin said.
Construction: What you need to know
Construction on the playground isn’t expected to begin until 2024, though removal of the existing playground’s equipment is well underway.
The playground closed to the public on September 18 to allow crews to work to remove existing playground equipment.
Visitors are encouraged to explore other amenities at the park during this time, such as the Central Bark Dog Park, tennis courts, restroom and pavilion which will all remain open throughout construction, Martin said.
Community members can also visit nearby playgrounds at Martin Luther King Jr. Park and J. Travis Price Park.
Donor fence posts used in the original construction of Playground 2000 are being gathered and stored during the removal process and city officials are calling for donors to come pick them up.
“The number one phone call we’re getting is family members that are wanting to retrieve their posts,” he said.
“They’ve been out there for 23 years… right now we’re just encouraging everybody to come get their posts and do with them as they would like.”
Donors who would like to pick up their donation posts should call The Center at 615-382-1655.