Fort Kid 2.0 design blank slate for community collaboration

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The city of Knoxville hosted a public meeting Thursday night about the future of the iconic Fort Kid playground.

The playground will be 29 years old on April 7, but needs renovations, according to city staff.

A few days before the meeting, city staff created a survey for residents to fill out, detailing what they wanted to see in the new playground.

City staff explained at the meeting that the size and structure of the playground will have to change because of needed safety renovations.

“The structure is going to change in the shape that it’s in, simply because we’re going to have to do a slope where the retaining wall is now,” Charles Lomax, director of community empowerment for the city, said.

Staff said there were multiple problems with the wall, including the type of soil underneath and a Knoxville Utility Board sewer line easement underneath.

Lomax presented a timeline for the future demolition and remodeling of the playground.

  • March 31: survey about future of playground ends
  • April 6: park closes and key items will be removed
  • April 20: structure demolished and slope work begins
  • June 30: slope and site grading complete
  • Mid-summer: public meeting to present schematic designs
  • Fall 2020: design and construction document complete
  • Fall/Winter 2020: construction starts
  • Spring 2021: Fort Kids reopens

Other than give an update to the future of Fort Kid, city leaders wanted the community to provide input on what they want to see in the future playground.

Annalaura Reeve took her daughter to the meeting.

She used to play on Fort Kid when she was a little girl, and likes to take her daughter to the wooden playground as well.

She said she liked other playgrounds in the city because they are more open, but she loved how unique Fort Kid was and remembered that was one of her favorite aspects when she was growing up.

“None of (the other playgrounds) have that kind of like magic of discovery that Fort Kid had. Where you can, there’s a lot of hidden spaces, and you can really explore in a way that you can’t do all the time with some of the play structures that you know, are more modern,” Reeve said.

She said she wanted to take her daughter to the meeting so she could find out what the 5-year-old liked about the playground.

“She really likes the swings, she likes the hanging bouncy bridge. She likes the bridges, she likes the turrets; which I love the turrets too,” Reeve said.

Others who attended the meeting were upset about a few ideas presented, such as who was going to build the playground and if it would still be made out of wood.

The main concern was the smaller size of the future playground.

Beth Waters, the original creator of Fort Kid, said she hoped the city would wait until at least the end of summer before demolition.

She’s upset the park won’t even be open on its 29th birthday.

Waters said that the size of the playground has decreased significantly since it was first built in 1991.

She said that then, the playground structure started off as 12,000 square feet.

Over the years, pieces have been taken off and now the structure itself, not the entire playground, is 6,000 square feet, according to city officials.

Waters said there was no way that a new structure will have the same spirit of Fort Kid.

Fort Kid was built in five days with about 2,500 volunteers putting in the labor.

To fill out the survey before March 31, click here.

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