City officials and community members last week gathered at Roosevelt Playground for a ribbon cutting and dedication on the newly renovated public space.
The $750,000 renovation was funded by Councilman Bobby Henon. Upgrades include new landscaping, play equipment like a swing set and jungle gym and a new sprayground. The basketball court was overhauled and the old hockey court, which Henon said was rarely used, was removed.
“These spaces matter to the neighborhood. They matter to the quality of life and how people feel about where they live,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. He mentioned he had lifelong memories from working at a playground during the summers in his youth.
The ribbon cutting was also attended by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, Councilmembers Henon and Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Rep. Mike Driscoll.
The upgrades come in light of a series of incidents involving unruly youth that happened at the park last summer. Neighbors complained about a large group of kids using foul language and vandalizing the park by throwing trash cans and using a fire extinguisher on the recreation building.
In one instance, a group of kids chased a rec leader into the recreation building, surrounding it until 15th District Police arrived.
“We came out on a Friday night and talked to community members and kids who were playing here,” Henon said. “Since then we’ve had COVID and had a complete renovation, and they’ve been playing basketball here every single night.”
Dennis Kilderry, Roosevelt Playground Advisory Council president, said since Henon ran for City Council 10 years ago, the only issue Kilderry cared about was fixing the playground.
“I told people when this day happened I’d probably break down and cry,” he said.
The renovations also feature signs reminding people not to leave their trash on the ground.
“There were some issues here and there have been issues at some of our spaces in this community. But I think this is case in point when you change the environment, you can change behavior,” said Lovell, who grew up nearby in Mayfair.
During and after the ribbon cutting, the park was filled with people who were playing basketball, using the swings and exploring the new play equipment.
The city’s Rebuild initiative is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into renovating parks, rec centers and libraries across the city. Lovell said similar dedications will happen soon at Disston and Moss playgrounds once renovations are complete. ••