By Kelly Youngblood
Fans of the PrairiePlay playground at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana won’t have to say goodbye to the popular wooden play structure just yet.
While it was supposed to be replaced this year, COVID-19 has delayed the rebuild until 2023 due to budget and planning logistics.
Built in 1995, the 13,000-square foot playground has been a place for children and families to let loose and play for more than 25 years. Although it has far surpassed the projected lifespan thanks to great care by the Urbana Park District, the wood has aged and deteriorated over time.
“So many kids and families have loved it over time, and we have maintained it to the extent the wooden material allows,” said Kara Dudek, park planner for the Urbana Park District.
Although PrairiePlay will be missed by many local residents, Dudek believes a new playground will benefit the community for years to come.
“We know many people will be sad to see the (PrairiePlay) playground replaced. We love it too! We know decades’ worth of memories have been made at the playground,” Dudek said. “This really is an opportunity, though, for many new generations to experience a wonderful new adventure at Meadowbrook Park’s playground.”
UPD staff have started visiting playgrounds in other communities to gather ideas and plan to involve a “new generation of kids and families in the design of a spectacular new playground.”
“I can’t wait to get the community involved in the planning and design process. It will be something as large and awe-inspiring as Prairie Play, yet more accessible to a variety of users,” Dudek said. “Children and visitors of all ages deserve a playground which inspires physical activity, learning, confidence, social skills, safe risk taking, and much more.”
Dudek added, “There is so much new technology in play, including new materials, themes, custom playgrounds, and opportunities for those of all abilities. We want to keep our options open to providing the best new product for the community.”
In addition to gathering community input this year and next, UPD will be focusing on design and engineering and looking into fundraising and relevant grant applications. The new playground is slated to be installed in 2023.
Community members who would like to be part of the planning process should contact Dudek at email@example.com. Community members who want their concrete pavers back after their removal can also email Dudek at that address.