Milwaukee Recreation completed major renovations at both sites in 2022

The Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association (WPRA) has selected Milwaukee Recreation’s Dream, Build, Play Playfield Renovation project as the winner of the 2022 Park Design Award (project categories – over $3,000,000 and over $1,000,000).

Milwaukee Recreation, a department of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), operates 52 playfields across the city of Milwaukee. The majority of these playfields were constructed between 1920 and 1960. With no major upgrades during the last 50-80 years, time and use have taken their toll on the facilities. In 2014, Milwaukee Recreation retained a consultant to conduct a review of its outdoor recreation facilities and provide a roadmap for improvements spanning a ten-year timeframe.

Milwaukee Recreation and MPS are committed to the equitable allocation of district resources, support, and opportunities. In lieu of merely addressing improvements based on physical condition, Milwaukee Recreation established an innovative and data-driven approach to ensure an equitable approach to the planned improvements. This methodology, deemed the “Equity Prioritization Model,” was based in research about systemically disinvested communities and racial and economic inequity. Ultimately, the Equity Prioritization Model provided Milwaukee Recreation with a framework to guide investment in recreation facilities and ensured a level playing field for all users. As a result of this work, two playfields were identified for updates and renovations with completion in 2022; Burnham Playfield and Green Bay Playfield.

With the Equity Prioritization Model establishing priorities for the renovations, the “Dream, Build, Play” initiative established the phases for each project. The “Dream” phase consists of a series of robust community engagement sessions to connect with community stakeholders and create ownership and inclusion in the design process. The “Build” phase includes development of construction drawings, bidding, and the actual construction process. Finally, the “Play” phase includes ribbon cuttings (upon project completion) and ongoing community engagement.

Each playfield completed in 2022 had its own individual set of improvements based on community feedback and needs. Burnham Playfield (project category – over $3,000,000) now features shade trees, a synthetic turf soccer field, walking paths, a new playground, basketball courts, a user-operated splash pad, improved lighting and benches. Green Bay Playfield (project category – over $1,000,000) received upgraded basketball and tennis courts, a splash pad, new playground equipment, obstacle course, shade structures, painted play activities, a kickball and football field, new lighting and seating, a picnic area, outdoor classroom, increased greenspace, and new plantings.

These onetime tired and overused playfields have been transformed into dynamic, multi-functional, and intergenerational destinations that encourage community pride and give families a place to gather, learn, and recreate. On a broader scale, the renovations also addressed issues of social equity, public health, and community vibrancy. The redesigned playfields provide opportunities for play, public gathering, and free summer playground programming while featuring a greener, shadier, and more inviting destination for all members of the community.

Milwaukee Recreation also won a WPRA Park Design Award in 2021.

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