Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

South Side Playfield Will Get Overhaul

Modrzejewski will see new life under plan from Milwaukee Recreation.

By - Mar 5th, 2020 03:26 pm
Modrzejewski Playfield. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Modrzejewski Playfield. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Modrzejewski Playfield at 1020 W. Cleveland Ave. will see new life thanks in part to a $750,000 federal grant. Milwaukee Public Schools, which owns the site, has a total budget of $3 million for the overhaul.

The playfield, one of 52 managed by MPS’s Milwaukee Recreation department, was identified as the best suited for improvements following a 2015 equity prioritization index effort. Approximately 6,000 kids under the age of 18 live within one mile of the site. The index looked at factors including population, crime, household income and race to determine which sites should be invested in first. “Modrzejewski rose to the top with the greatest need,” said Milwaukee Recreation project manager Pam Linn in an interview.

The National Park Service grant will provide funding to support installing new playground equipment and renovation of the multi-use lawn area, play court. An existing fieldhouse will be updated and a shade structure will be installed. The funding will also support the conversion of a wading pool into a splash pad. An additional $750,000 grant working its way through the Wisconsin State Legislature will fund green infrastructure improvements to the area.

“There is a high need for this,” Linn said.

The changes will include rethinking the significant amount of fencing that surrounds the site. “If you live on one side of the playfield and your friend lives on the other you almost can’t get there through the maze of fences,” said Linn.

Located in the Lincoln Village neighborhood, the full-block park is bounded by the Kinnickinnic River, W. Cleveland Ave., S. 10th St. and N. 11th St. A pedestrian bridge spans the river along S. 11th St., connecting with W. Harrison Ave. Pedestrian and bicycle access to the river corridor is planned as part of the project. Today, a narrow pathway along the river connects with the KK River Trail at S. 6th St. that runs off-street until W. Lincoln Ave. near S. 1st St. in Bay View. The green infrastructure work will improve that connection and add a host of other sustainability improvements.

The playfield is in an area of the city that has seen substantial change in recent years as the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) has acquired and razed homes near the Kinnickinnic River as part of a flood abatement project. This includes properties on each side of the playfield.

MMSD and the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers worked with Milwaukee Recreation on a year-long community engagement effort that included meetings and door-to-door canvassing. Engineering firm GRAEF came up with a conceptual design plan and project budget.

After the grant agreements are formally received, design work will commence. Construction work is expected to take a year. The revised playfield should open in 2022, Linn said.

The remaining $1.5 million in needed funds will come from Milwaukee Recreation’s budget. That budget, known as the “extension fund,” does not take dollars from MPS’ general fund, Linn said.

The playfield is named after Robert Modrzejewski, a retired member of the United States Marine Corps from Milwaukee. A graduate of MPS’ Pulaski High School and UW-Milwaukee,  Modrzejewski earned the military’s highest award, the Medal of Honor, from President Lyndon B. Johnson for his role as a company commander during the Vietnam War. He is 85 years old and lives in the San Diego area today.

Milwaukee Recreation completed a host of redevelopment projects last year including Columbia Playfield and Custer Playfield. In 2014, a $25 million, 10-year plan was unveiled to address its playfields.

The City of Milwaukee is also upgrading its small parks through its MKE Plays program.

Rebuilt Custer Playfield

Playfield Today

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