Elsie Stevens waited 10 years for this day.
Then the president of the Holme Circle Civic Association, Stevens began reaching out to the community and city officials to garner interest in reinvigorating Frank McArdle Playground, 2801 Welsh Road, nearly a decade ago. Litter, vandalism and graffiti had taken its toll on the park in recent years, making it more of a neighborhood eyesore than a gathering place for the community.
On May 25, the day the ribbon was cut on the newly renovated playground, teenagers played basketball, kids climbed playground equipment, and families enjoyed the sunny weather, just as Stevens and the community had remembered from before, and envisioned for the future.
“In its heyday this playground was a hub of children’s activities,” Stevens said at the ribbon cutting.
Now, the association hopes it will reclaim that level of community usage.
The upgraded 20,000-square-foot-park includes new playground equipment, a racetrack that loops through the park, a new basketball court, new picnic tables and new tree plantings.
The civic association and Councilman Bobby Henon’s office held community engagement and planning sessions in 2016. City officials held a groundbreaking for the project back in 2019. As the project was nearing completion, the pandemic happened, further delaying progress and the official ribbon cutting.
“It’s all about the finish, and McArdle finished on top,” Henon said.
With the updated public space comes expectations to keep the site clean. Stevens noted that litter and broken bottles are a frequent site at the park, in the fields adjacent to the park and at the neighboring Robert Pollock Elementary School. Graffiti, vandalism and any sighting of drug paraphernalia can be reported to the police by contacting 311.
“We’re doing out part, we ask that everyone else do the same,” Stevens said.
Frank McArdle IV, V and VI, descendants of patriarch Francis McArdle, the park’s namesake, were also in attendance. McArdle played baseball at North Catholic High School before playing on teams in the minor leagues and becoming a baseball scout for the Philadelphia Phillies. He co-founded Crispin Gardens Athletic Club and was president of the Father Judge quarterbacks club and fathers club.
“I’m sure my grandfather would be thrilled to have his name put together with a place where children can develop and do great things. This means the world to us,” said Frank McArdle V, the head football coach at Father Judge High School.
Stevens said in the future the civic association will work to expand the playground to include another basketball court.
“Moms once again are bringing their children here instead of bypassing McArdle for another renovated play site, and basketball is definitely the draw,” she said.
In April, the park was featured in a video made by local teenagers that went viral and got millions of views on Instagram and TikTok. Mike Gibson, owner of the 6th Man Project, visited the park to donate 12 new basketballs to the playground.