Business Times of Edmond, Oklahoma March 2020 - Page 6

Stephenson Park Renovations: Tennis to Go, Rocketship to Stay STORY AND PHOTOS BY HEATHER WARLICK A new, improved Stephenson Park will feature a contemporary playground to replace the aged one, city officials said. E dmond residents are seeing new construction and various renovation projects cropping up all over town, and the Edmond Parks and Recreation Department is on board with modernizing the city’s many parks and recreational facilities. Stephenson Park is slated to receive a $3 million renovation in 2020, bringing it up-to-date as a “modern urban park,” said Craig Dishman, director of the Edmond Parks and Recreation Department. “It’s really kind of a downtown urban park feel that we’re trying to create,” Dishman said. He likens the style the City hopes to capture to a smaller version of Oklahoma City’s Scissortail Park and Tulsa’s Gathering Place. “It will be a place people can stop in for lunch and have a 6 March 2020 | The Business Times picnic, grab a pizza at Hideaway or a sandwich at Café 501, and come across the street and let their kids run around and play.” The new, improved park will include plenty of wide-open spaces for groups to gather, with walking trails and exercise equipment and a contemporary, creative playground to replace the aged one that currently exists at the park’s northeast corner. A popular source of debate regarding the park’s overhaul is the rocketship slide that’s stood proudly at the corner of Fourth and Boulevard for more than 50 years. Edmond residents with fond memories of their own childhood and teen years playing at and hanging out at the structure are nostalgic to see it go, but the good news is that the rocketship itself will remain at Stephenson Park. The slide will be removed — it is a safety hazard — and the rocketship will be painted, lit up and used as an iconic art piece welcoming people to the park. The new playground will be a centerpiece of the park, Dishman said. “We’re trying to do something pretty special with the new playground equipment,” Dishman said. “We’re looking for something really creative with a real ‘wow’ factor to bring people to Stephenson Park.” Plans for the park’s new look will be finalized this month, but construction likely won’t begin until summer or even August, Dishman said. This has to do with a couple of factors. One is the new Tennis Center being built at 601 W. 15th St. Parks and Recreation does not want to demolish the tennis and basketball courts at Stephenson Park until the new tennis center is complete, and renovations to KickingBird Tennis Center are underway. The existing tennis court at Stephenson Park is popular among pickleball players since the department painted lines for the game, a cross between table tennis and regular tennis, Dishman said. Once the new tennis center is complete, KickingBird Tennis Center will be converted to pickleball courts. At that point, Stephenson Park’s tennis/pickleball court will be removed and replaced with an area people can rent for special occasions or just use as a gathering space. Another reason the renovations may not start until August is simply that the park is widely used during the summer months. Other new additions to the park will be pavilion areas with lighted trees and plenty of seating, wide open spaces for kids to run or dogs to catch Frisbees, a stage area along with a new parking area for the museum. Where the tennis court is now, visitors can expect an area with outdoor games such as cornhole and possibly ping pong tables made of outdoor- friendly materials.