By Christine Bryant
Residents, community organizations and volunteers from the Columbus Blue Jackets and city of Columbus will gather Sept. 5 to install highly anticipated playground equipment that will give Westgate Park a splash of red and blue – and a little “Stinger” green.
Earlier this month, the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation announced it will install a Blue Jackets-themed playground at Westgate Park. This year’s site was chosen after the foundation consulted with the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.
“The existing playground equipment behind the Westgate Recreation Center was installed between 1994 and 1996 and was starting to show its 20-year age,” said Jeff Anderson, parks development specialist.
The new equipment will feature two different structures – one that has been specifically designed for 2- to 5-year-olds and the other for 5- to 12-year-olds, Anderson said.
“The equipment for the older children has several custom elements, including a hockey puck climber, a Blue Jackets logo panel and hockey stick posts,” he said. “The platforms on the playground will reach a height of 9 feet and will feature a variety of opportunities for children to climb, slide, run and play.”
The project also will remove and replace the current swings, and will be located in the same spot as the existing playground site, Anderson said.
Sue Laughlin, president of Friends of Westgate Park, said she was thrilled to learn the news that her neighborhood park had been chosen for the project.
“The new playground will provide a safe and inviting place to play for the many young children and their families who come to the park,” she said. “The new equipment is very colorful and age-appropriate.”
Designers of the project consulted with several community members and park goers, including the children, staff and volunteers at the Westgate Recreation Center, said Denica Bruce, director of the center.
The recreation center also has recently seen a facelift – currently undergoing changes that will include a new multipurpose room, fitness facility and classroom space. The center is expected to re-open this fall.
“Since we were in the process of renovating the recreation center, both our department and the Blue Jackets Foundation thought that it would be great to provide the community with a new playground to go along with the newly-renovated recreation center,” Anderson said.
The playground project will cost about $85,000 to complete, with funds coming through the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation, said Jen Bowden, vice president of community relations for the Blue Jackets and executive director of the foundation.
The installation will be completed in just two days, with the lion’s share of the playground completed on Friday, Sept. 5, she said.
Karen Davis, director of communications for the Columbus Blue Jackets, said the build will happen rain or shine. Although she said several team personnel will be at the build, the organization is unsure of which members will be on hand.
Laughlin said everyone is welcome to participate, and Friends of Westgate Park will include volunteer information on its website at FriendsofWestgatePark.org.
“We’d like to show the Blue Jackets Foundation volunteers that we have many people who appreciate the park and want to pitch in,” she said.
The day will begin between 8 and 8:15 a.m. Sept. 5 when volunteers arrive, Laughlin said. A ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at 3 p.m., and Laughlin said she encourages residents to attend this part of the event.
“If your schedule doesn’t allow for a whole day, we’d love to see you for a half-day or any amount of time you can give,” she said. “The Ohio Parks and Recreation Association is planning to grill hot dogs for lunch. It will be a day of hard work, but also lots of fun.”
For more information on this project, go to bluejacketsfoundation.org.