Tennis courts, baseball diamonds and softball fields may be a thing of the past in some Minneapolis neighborhood parks.

Proposals for park renovations across a swath of south Minneapolis show more space for soccer and lacrosse, pickleball and volleyball, as an advisory group urges the Park Board to customize facilities to match changing demographics and cultural preferences.

The proposed designs affect the area east and south of Interstate 35W. But they also may influence park planning in other areas of the city, fueled by a recently authorized $220 million, 20-year park renovation deal. The changes would happen over 25 to 30 years, according to Adam Arvidson, strategic planning director for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which appointed the advisory committee.

“No more cookie-cutter parks,” Arvidson told the Park Board recently.

According to the new proposals, the total number of ball diamonds in the area would be cut from 46 to 30, including complete elimination of diamonds at Corcoran, Green Central and Peavey parks. In their place, new large fields would offer space adaptable for soccer, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee and cricket. Dedicated tennis courts would drop from 23 to 11, with more emphasis on multisport courts that could accommodate pickleball and volleyball.

The Park Board is taking comments on the proposal through Aug. 1 and will formally consider it later this summer. The proposal was developed after 18 months of discussion, sometimes focused on matters of racial inclusion.

Similar planning efforts are slated for the North Side starting in January, the East Side in 2018 and southwest Minneapolis in 2019.

Fewer baseball fields

Reducing baseball diamonds doesn’t sit well with some, including baseball booster Bryan Barnes.

“If they do this, you’re just taking opportunities away for baseball for Minneapolis kids,” he said, adding that he believes it’s a maintenance issue. “They don’t have the money to keep these fields up. They just want to have a field that they can go and mow and be done.”

But Park Commissioner Steffanie Musich said reducing the number of diamonds recognizes the reality that not all diamonds can be used simultaneously because their outfields overlap, and current configurations aren’t optimal. And she noted dust from the fields can aggravate breathing issues for some children.

“I’ve spent a lot of summer nights inhaling dust from kids playing soccer on baseball diamonds,” she said.

Changes recommended for individual parks often followed the preferences of nearby residents, according to Kate Lamers, a park project manager.

For example, seven more parks will get food gardens or orchards. Brackett, Currie and Phelps parks would get splash pads aimed at attracting older preteens, for example, while others would keep wading pools for younger kids. Peavey Park would get the area’s only interactive water play area with a more hands-on style of water play that could involve water gates and streams, Lamers said.

Variety of features

The idea is that residents could visit several nearby parks and find activities that are appealing, but features at each park would be different. Residents would need to go farther for more specialized pursuits and unusual features.

For example, Keewaydin Park is recommended for the area’s only adventure play area, which is aimed at older children who want to climb a wall or boulders. The relatively underused Edward Solomon Park southwest of Lake Nokomis would get several specialized features — a dog park, a walking loop archery course and a disc golf course. Todd Park would get the city’s first dedicated softball field.

Two inner-city parks — Currie and Peavey — are slated for big makeovers, while no consensus was reached for changes at a third, Powderhorn.

Currie Park is one of the most heavily used in the city, wedged between Interstate 35W and the Blue Line in Cedar-Riverside, and serves a heavily East African population. Its soccer field would be relocated under a dome, which would also cover a tennis court and a half-court basketball court. It would also get a full-court basketball court outside.

Meanwhile, Peavey would be almost totally revamped, except for its northeastern gateway plaza. The park would be bisected by a promenade that’s designed to bring people into the park. The promenade, leading to a new park building, would run along a large athletic field that replaces two baseball diamonds.


Twitter: @brandtmpls