By Rachel Christian
Kids in Kissimmee can now enjoy a new playground right outide downtown thanks to a special grant-funded project made possible by an NBA partnership and about 400 young volunteers.
The small army of 13- and 14-year-olds descended on Oak Street Park,
located at 317 Oak St., to pitch in and assemble the play area in a single day last week. The youngsters were in town for the first-ever International Junior NBA World Championships hosted at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, and they stopped by in two shifts to get the work done.
The new playground includes slides, climbing features, wheelchair accessible swings and plenty of NBA branding, thanks to a partnership with the athletic league’s charitable foundation, NBA Cares.
The project was a major collaborative effort.
Ka-BOOM!, a nonprofit that funds play area projects across the nation, approved the city’s Parks and Recreation Department grant application last year. Renovating Oak Street Park was on the city’s five-year capital plan, but a lack of funding made it seem unlikely work would get done anytime soon.
But once Kissimmee got the green light from Ka-BOOM! about eight months ago, said Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Steve Lackey said he and his staff set to work planning and prepping the area for its much-needed makeover.
This is the sixth time Kissimmee has partnered with Ka-BOOM!, which awarded approximately $25,000 for this project.
“It’s a great program and we really like the concept,” Lackey said. “It helps build a sense of community and ownership for projects like this across the city.”
Local nonprofit Community Vision also chipped in by coordinating adult volunteers and providing food for participants throughout the hot and humid August work day.
The NBA worked with the city and Community Vision to bring the 400 talented children from around the globe to take part in the service learning project where they assembled equipment, spread mulch, painted sidewalk games, created a colorful mural near the outfield and more.
In return, NBA Cares and the Parks Department hosted two mini-basketball workshops at the park’s outdoor courts.
The new 3,500 square foot playground opened to the public Monday after a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 11. It is located by what’s known as the Oak Street Athletic Complex across from the post office.
“This is work we put in for the future of our community,” Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez said at the ribbon cutting. “It’s amazing what they did and we’re so thankful for the work they put in.”