Come next month youngsters visiting Smith Fields will have new slides, swings and more to enjoy in the new playground area at the sports complex.
The new playground equipment arrived in Whitefish Monday and work on installing it is expected to begin in November marking the completion of a three year effort by Project Whitefish Kids to raise the funds needed to construct the new playground.
“This is surreal,” said Gloria Nelson with PWK. “It’s unbelievable.”
Project Whitefish Kids, the nonprofit that operates, maintains and develops the Smith Fields Youth Sports Complex, has been working to raise a total of $292,000 for new playground structures at the park. The previous wooden playground was constructed in 2002 when the complex was built, but no longer met safety standards.
Funding came from a number of private and public sources through donations and grants. Fundraising efforts were recently taken over the finish line with a Major Grant award from the Whitefish Community Foundation.
“We had 300 donors,” Nelson said. “We really felt supported by the community and glad they see the benefit of a new playground. This really a neighborhood park. It’s used by those who are here for the sports fields, but also by neighbors and community.”
The new playground is being installed this fall with completion expected in mid-November, and the accompanying pavilion is set to be completed in the spring.
The Whitefish Community Foundation Board of Directors recently announced a Major Grant award of $25,000 to finish fundraising for the playground and pavilion at the 55-acre complex. This is the second such grant awarded by the foundation this year.
“We have watched PWK put in a lot of time and work to secure the necessary funding for this community project,” said Linda Engh-Grady, Foundation President. “PWK is comprised of very dedicated volunteers that should take pride in the asset they have built for our community.”
The Major Grant is expected to help PWK with the playground and pavilion project without jeopardizing their operating funds used for the upkeep of eight soccer/lacrosse pitches, five baseball fields and four softball fields.
The new playground will occupy a 120-by-80-foot space and offer up 42 different play events and 14 slides and swings.
In addition to other stand-alone features, the playground will include two sets of playground equipment designed for two different age groups.
One structure is designed for ages 2-5, and features three slides, three climbing elements and several interactive panels.
The other structure is for ages 5-12, and includes three slides, 18 dynamic rope activities, spin features, and flex treads for bouncing and climbing.
Funding for the project also came from grants from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Doug Betters For the Children, Flathead Electric Co-op Roundup for Safety, North Valley Hospital Foundation, Weyerhaeuser and NorthWestern Energy. Funding from local banks resulted in $11,500 in funding.
Private donations included a $60,000 gift from the Conners family in memory of John and Barbara Conners.
The city of Whitefish provided $20,000 in resort tax funds to the project, and assisted PWK in applying for a Montana Accessible Playground grant. An ADA compliant path from the parking lot to the structure, as well as a paved path around the structure, is also planned.
Stumptown Art Studio will host another ceramic tile painting day on Nov. 10 from 10 a.m. to noon. Those who made a donation to the playground can paint a ceramic tile to be installed on the pavilion.
The park hosts 40,000 visitors each year, including athletes, parents, coaches, visiting teams and their families. It is also the local playground for an area with 450 homes in six neighborhoods in south Whitefish.