Chicago Plays! to finish a year early


Wesley Herold

As a part of Mayor Emanuel’s Chicago park expansion, 327 playgrounds, such as Near South’s Coliseum Park, 1466 S. Wabash Ave., will have been restored or constructed in the city since 2013 as of this December.

By Metro Reporter

Nearly four years after launching the Chicago Plays! playground initiative, 327 playgrounds will have been repaired or built in the city by this December, according to an Oct. 17 press release from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The program is scheduled to end a year ahead of schedule and upon completion, every child in the city will have a playground available within a 10-minute walk, the press release stated.

Emanuel launched the program in March 2013 with the goal of building, repairing or refurbishing more than 300 playgrounds across the city over five years.

Chicago Plays! is part of Emanuel’s Chicago park expansion, which added 750 acres of new parkland, 256 new playgrounds and more than $800 million in capital investment from neighborhoods and private sources, the press release said.

“In Chicago, our investments in parks and playgrounds are ensuring first-rate opportunities for exercise and play are the expectation for every family—not the exception,” Emanuel said in the release.

Before the initiative, city playgrounds were not scheduled to be replaced for 20-plus years. The Chicago Park District was happy Chicago Plays! allowed them to make more timely improvements, according to Jessica Faulker, director of communications for the Chicago Park District.

“Strong parks and playgrounds build strong neighborhoods,” Faulkner said. “When you have a playground, it’s where neighbors meet and children play. Playgrounds and parks enhance the quality of life in our city.” 

Maria Toribio, a parent in District 35, said it is satisfying to know the city is proactively restoring and rebuilding playgrounds. Disappointed with the playground in her own neighborhood, she and other parents raised money and campaigned for a new one. The parents also campaigned to bring recess back to the school district after it was taken away. 

“It’s important for [children] to do physical activity, rest their minds and learn how to socialize,” Toribio said. “A lot of families with fewer resources might live in small homes where they do not have a chance to play inside their home, so it is good for them to have something outside.”

Toribio said she actually saw her daughters’ grades rise as they spent more time outside. 

Carol Lloyd Rozansky, chair of Columbia’s Education Department, said playgrounds can help children with muscle development, curiosity, socially acceptable interaction and speech. She added that playgrounds are a great, safe space for kids to hang out and have fun.

“It’s good use of my tax money,” Rozansky said. “As long as it was done in a professional way, it’s a really important asset to the city to have our kids be healthy and in safe places.” 

Maria Toribio’s comments were translated from Spanish.