Rec Center to gain new playscape: Dec. 8 meeting on how to spend $350K

On any given day, dozens of La Jolla children use the playground at La Jolla Rec Center. But with equipment that was installed in the 1950s (and a few newer pieces added 10 years ago) it’s time for an upgrade. La Jolla Parks & Rec, Inc., the board that helps manage the Rec Center, is looking for feedback on ways the playground could be improved, and will hold the first of several meetings to gather ideas, 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. 

The playground renovation is the next step in a major improvement project that kicked off earlier this year to spruce up the 101-year-old facility. Changes, thus far, have been largely cosmetic, said La Jolla Parks & Rec. president Cindy Greatrex, citing the gift of a new grand piano, new curtains for the stage, and a freshened-up mural in the main hall. There were also a few “invisible” projects, such as new electrical wiring. Plans on the horizon include new fencing to surround the facility and the start of a youth theater program. 

To fund the new play area, a group of anonymous donors have agreed to pool up to $350,000 for modern equipment and shade structures. While the initial amount would be enough to replace some of the climb-ons and add a mechanism for shade, the more money the community raises, the more “fun” that could be added.

“The donors are willing to spearhead a fundraising campaign for a new playground, which is what people in La Jolla seem to be looking for,” Greatrex said. “But there are literally hundreds of thousands of incarnations of ADA-accessible playgrounds, which is going to be one of our big requirements. We need to start somewhere, so we’re having an open forum with some white boards to jot down ideas and see what people want.”

In addition to being ADA-compliant, the board has determined the new playground will use contemporary building materials to replace the metal structures that get hot to the touch in the summer, and softer ground padding. But ideas on design theme, best usage and so on, are still needed. 

“People could contribute money if they wish to, but at the very least, we need their ideas,” Greatrex said. “There are endless things we could do with a playground. We need to know, do people want a theme? A certain type of equipment? As a board, we don’t want to make those decisions without community input. We’re just 10 people and there are thousands of people who use the Rec Center. There might be things we haven’t thought of that a teacher might suggest, or a babysitter might think of.” 

Greatrex said the board would like to get construction started in 2017, but a timeline has not been established. “We’re moving on this and we think it’s going to look really good when it’s finished,” she said. “It’s going to be amazing.”

The Rec Center sits at 615 Prospect St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday. (858) 552-1658. bit.ly/ljreccenter

Want to know more? Call Greatrex at (858) 922-0263. 

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