Nearly three-quarters of a million dollars of improvements are planned for a southside Springfield park, including an accessible playground with a theme honoring the park’s namesake, the late Davey Moore, a former boxing champion.
Leeann Castillo, executive director of the National Trail Parks and Recreation District, said the playground will have a flat surface suitable “so children of all abilities can take part.”
The playground with a boxing theme emerged to pay tribute to Moore, the Springfield native who grew up on the south side, became the world featherweight champion from 1959 to 1963, and died from injuries sustained in a title fight in 1963 with Sugar Ramos at Dodger Stadium.
“I told them the idea we had and they just ran with it,” Castillo said of the company designing the project.
Boxing gloves and other boxing decor will be part of the plan, which also includes an informational panel or kiosk “so people can learn about who Davey Moore was, why he is important ... so that doesn’t get lost in the community,” Castillo said.
She said the city has tried to make improvements in its parks as money has been available.
In recent years, that has included working with partners to install glass backboards on the basketball courts at Davey Moore Park, 600 S. Western Ave. She noted the tennis courts also have been resurfaced.
“So we are really excited” about the additions planned this year and next in Davey Moore Park, Castillo said. “It’s a really neat thing to put back into this park.”
This year’s projects have stemmed in part from the Engaged Neighborhood Study work the city of Springfield Community Development Department did from 2019-2021, Castillo said.
The study indicated people wanted to see a playground, skate park, water feature and better access from South Yellow Springs Street.
The playground and skate park are in the works now, as a result.
The lone skate park in Springfield is by the park office on Mitchell Boulevard. Skaters and community members met at the park there recently to talk about plans and help shape the concrete one being designed for Davey Moore Park.
Some community members who took part in the session at Mitchell Boulevard questioned Castillo about the decision for a skate park.
“That was a tough conversation to have, but I also think it was necessary,” she said.
She said she referred back to the Engaged Neighborhood Study that helped shape the plans. She also said she was invited to speak to members of the Unified Collective, a group whose members advocate for diversity, inclusion and social justice for southside residents. That includes a focus on improving green space and youth programming.
The boxing theme from the playground also could be part of the skate park design.
“We don’t know how that would work yet,” Castillo said.
Fulton Elementary School is next to Davey Moore Park, and Castillo said she was excited to learn the principal said several children there ride skateboards to school.
“I think it can be a great conduit to those kids,” she said.
The playground work is estimated to cost about $450,000, Castillo said. It needs formal approval from Springfield City Commission, which could come soon, then 8 to 10 weeks for the equipment to be installed, most likely in late summer or early fall, she said.
The skate park will cost $300,000 and is planned for construction in spring of 2024.
Davey Moore Park is 49 acres with ball fields, basketball courts, playground, shelter house and picnic areas.