By Joe Jarosz
October 22, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Saturday in the park, you’d think it was the Fourth of July.
There were different kinds of fireworks though, with people celebrating an explosive beginning to turning around the area into a more family-friendly environment.
Over a six hour period, the look of The Concourse changed dramatically. Roughly 200 volunteers assembled early Saturday morning and by 3 p.m., the Northeast had a new, multigenerational playground, coupled with adult exercise equipment and more seating.
Earlier this summer, the neighborhood association was awarded a KaBOOM! grant. KaBoom! is a national non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all kids get a childhood filled with the balanced and active play needed to thrive. With the grant, the park received a playground designed by the community, the adult workout equipment and mulch surfacing. The project is one of more than 50 playgrounds being built by Humana, the Humana Foundation, and KaBOOM! across the U.S. over four years.
Amanda Stinger, chair for the playground committee and board member on the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association, said she was super pleased with the playground and how hard the volunteers worked to meet their deadline.
“There are many components to the playground and seeing it up close, it looks better that I expected,” Stinger said, adding the color design of is spot on with the overall plan the playground committee has for the future. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Although the playground and fitness equipment were installed, there were still a few items left to be installed at a later time. Even though there were close to 200 volunteers, not all who signed-up to help showed up. Stinger said they still need to paint a design on the sidewalk and build and install planter benches and adirondack chairs.
Next on the agenda for the park committee is a huge slide next to the new playground, which Stinger hopes to have completed by the end of the year. Before the grant for the playground was awarded, the slide was the original first step in the remodeling of the area. However, because of design issues, the slide was put on the back burner. Also on the to-do list is a walking path that would circle the entire park and bathrooms.
“Because of funding, it’s immediately next on our goals list,” Stinger said. “After that, we have pending PIAC [Public Improvements Advisory Committee] funds to renovate the tennis courts into multi-use with sports surfacing for basketball, tennis and soccer.
Courtny Dolan, associate project manager and the KaBoom! representative who assisted the Northeast community with the project, said she was proud of everyone involved, from the community volunteers, Humana and everyone who donated their time to build the playground. Dolan added that this was playground number 2,530 by KaBoom! since 1996, and one of 50 with the help of Humana.
“KaBoom! is dedicated to get kids access to playgrounds they deserve,” Dolan said. “Scarritt [Renaissance Neighborhood Association] and the KC Parks [and Recreation] Department have invested a lot of time, energy and space for this park. This community is near and dear to my heart and I look forward to seeing what they do with the space going forward.”
Those who came out to help came from within the Northeast to as far away as south Overland Park.
Margaret Vincik, along with her husband and children, drove to the Northeast from Overland Park to lend a hand. She said it was amazing to see and be a part of the “extreme makeover playground edition.”
“We’re jealous because the park looks fantastic,” Vincik said. “Parks build community and it’s nice to see so many people be part of this building community.”
Anthony Perniciaro couldn’t agree more. Currently living in the East Bottoms, Perniciaro grew up in the Northeast. About 20 years ago though, he was shot, stabbed and left for dead in the Concourse. Over the past couple years, he said he’s noticed a shift towards better living conditions in the Northeast. But when he heard about the playground build, he wanted to be a part of the change that was happening to the area.
“The area has definitely made a comeback,” Perniciaro said. “The community has come together and have taken control. This is a wonderful area and if the area keeps improving like with more playgrounds and along the Avenue, it’ll bring in more people from all over the city without worry.”