LOGAN SQUARE — Kosciuszko Park has a new look — and features — after months of being fenced off for construction.
The 8-acre park at 2732 N. Avers Ave. reopened over the weekend with an outdoor fitness course, rehabbed playground, water play area, baseball diamond and more.
A gated dog area at the northwestern end of the park is also new. The dog area opened briefly earlier this week, but the Park District has since closed it down so crews can paint the asphalt a lighter color, said Geary Yonker, park advisory council president. Yonker said the council members expect the dog area to officially open in the coming days.
Kids and families enjoyed the new amenities Wednesday afternoon in above 70-degree weather, a sign of what’s to come this summer.
“I’m really excited with how it turned out,” Yonker said. “I think it’s going to be something that people can really use for years to come. I really do.”
Most of the renovation project was funded through $1.85 million in tax-increment finance dollars, while the dog area — a community-led effort launched in 2016 — was financed through 31st Ward Ald. Felix Cardona Jr.’s participatory budget.
In addition to building amenities like the outdoor fitness course, which is designed for kids 13 and older, crews removed two of the park’s four baseball diamonds to create more green space, added benches and repaved the walking path. As part of the broader project, the park’s soccer field was rehabbed in 2019.
The makeover is a significant turnaround for the park, which for many years was known for its flooded baseball fields and old playground equipment.
The renovation project began to take shape in 2019, when former 31st Ward Ald. Milly Santiago announced the allocation of city TIF dollars toward the project.
Though Santiago was unseated by Cardona later that year, the TIF allocation carried over and construction began the following year. The project was on hold for a few months due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it picked up again this spring, Yonker said.
Now that the renovation project is mostly complete, Yonker and other members of the park advisory council are focused on creating programs at the park. The group aims to launch a little league baseball team and a softball team, as well as free classes to teach kids and families how to use the outdoor fitness course.
All of this is possible because of the unwavering support and dedication of neighbors who spent years pushing for improvements, Yonker said.
“We just want to thank everyone who was involved in it … thank anyone who’s given their time,” he said. “People knocked on doors, gathered signatures, stood in front of polling places. Stuff like this doesn’t happen unless you get elected officials to pay attention to you. All of those people working together were able to do that.”
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