A new playground opens in Martin Luther King, Jr. Square Park
Saturday, Aug. 28 was the 58th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In Kansas City, that memory was celebrated with the opening of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Square Park just east of the Country Club Plaza. The fact that Kansas City has had a park named after the civil rights icon since 1978 comes as a surprise to many.
Since 1978, it has only had a small tennis court and 42 empty, unused acres running alongside Brush Creek. An underdeveloped memorial to a great man that’s main use was by politicians as an illustration of the inequities of government spending on the East side of Troost.
Then came Patrick Mahomes and Brittany Matthews. Not content with giving back to the community in the form of a Super Bowl championship, a Woman’s Soccer Team, and Whataburger, they decided to donate a “destination park” to the city’s children.
Marques Fitch, The 15 and the Mahomies Foundation executive director, said it was a very “hands-on” experience for the couple. They made the final selection for the location and 15 and the Mahomies partnering with various corporate sponsors donated $1 million dollars to the Parks and Recreation Department to develop and build an inclusive playground that would attract children from all over Kansas City.
A project sponsor, Gunter Construction Company’s website describes the playground equipment as having been selected to “encourage accessibility and inclusiveness for children with all physical and mental abilities. The destination playground features a large, custom net play structure, multiple types of swings, musical marimba, a small shade structure, a wheelchair-accessible spinner, and a synthetic turf mound with climbing features and a wide concrete hill slide.”
On a hot Saturday afternoon, a large crowd of dignitaries and community members came together to officially open the park for play. While no one was surprised to see local political figures like Congressman Cleaver, former Mayor Sly James, or even the Chief’s mascot KC Wolf there, many were surprised to see Patrick Mahomes and Brittany Matthews arrive in time for the ceremony.
The short ceremony featured local drill teams performing and a variety of speakers before Mahomes approached the podium to remind us that “This is y’all’s park! Hopefully, this is just the beginning for Kansas City’s future and the future of the kids in Kansas City.”
Then after a short interruption, for Mahomes to grant the request of a child for a hug, the ribbon was cut and the new playground was officially open.
As Mahomes and Mathews drove away, the drill teams gave an impromptu private performance. A thank you for the gift of a playground in their neighborhood from the greatest quarterback of their generation. As you walked through the playground and saw the faces of the children at play, you realized that Kansas City didn’t just get a winning quarterback for our team. We got a class act for our community.