Burnham Playfield reopens with new turf field and splash pad, drawing neighbors and families to the once little-used park

·3 min read
Josmary, 10, plays on the newly installed splash pad Friday at Burnham Park in Milwaukee.
Josmary, 10, plays on the newly installed splash pad Friday at Burnham Park in Milwaukee.

The newly renovated Burnham Playfield offers local residents a place to gather with the addition of a synthetic turf field, a new playground and a new splash pad to replace an old wading pool.

The renovations cost about $4.4 million, according to Lynn Greb, recreation director with Milwaukee Recreation. The playfield's reopening was celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Wednesday.

These renovations are part of a broader plan through Milwaukee Recreation to renovate 52 playfields and fieldhouses across Milwaukee, Greb said. This is the seventh renovation project that's been completed since 2019.

"Lots of work left to do but it's so rewarding to see how years of planning have come to fruition," she said.

Sisters Beatriz Romo and Jocelyn Romo said they are happy to see this park's renovations because it's closer to their homes than other parks — and their kids love it.

"Every day they want to come. They don't let us leave the park," Jocelyn said Thursday as she and Beatriz sat in the shade while their children played in the splash pad. This was their third day in a row visiting.

Other upgrades to this south-side park include new basketball courts, shade trees and additional walking paths.

Daniel Vela (from left), Tomas Pinet and Nata Pinet shoot hoops Thursday at the newly renovated basketball courts at Burnham Playfield.
Daniel Vela (from left), Tomas Pinet and Nata Pinet shoot hoops Thursday at the newly renovated basketball courts at Burnham Playfield.

"It's real nice compared to how it was," Nata Pineta said about the newly renovated basketball court.

"When I was young it was all stone. It was all messed up. And it's real nice now ... . A lot of people come out and it's a good thing for the city," he said.

Pinet said he has been coming every few days to play basketball on the courts since they opened a few weeks ago. He added that in the evenings the place is "packed" with people lined up to play.

Plans to upgrade local parks have been in the works since 2014 when Milwaukee Recreation did an analysis to determine which playfields and fieldhouses needed upgrades, which included Burnham Playfield.

Last year the department developed a metric that would provide a more equitable approach to renovating these public spaces that considered both population and neighborhood characteristics.

Burnham Playfield, which is surrounded by a predominantly Latinx population, was among the top 10 that needed attention, Greb said.

A group of children pass a soccer ball Friday on the newly installed turf fields at Burnham Park in Milwaukee.
A group of children pass a soccer ball Friday on the newly installed turf fields at Burnham Park in Milwaukee.

Community input was central to the improvements, so Milwaukee Recreation collaborated with VIA CDC, an organization that focuses on strengthening local neighborhoods in Milwaukee. They work primarily with Burnham Park, Silver City and Layton Park.

VIA CDC, formerly known as Layton Boulevard West Neighbors, was involved in the dialogue that led to converting old tennis courts at Burnham Playfield into futsal courts in 2019, said JoAnna Bautch, executive director of VIA CDC.

The community's input was crucial to that change; it emphasizes cultural representation and highlights the different activities different cultures gravitate toward, Bautch said. The installation of the futsal courts were "a stepping stone" for the recent improvements, she added.

Greb said she's happy to see that spaces like Burnham Playfield, which was "not very much used," now are drawing residents.

"You make that change and people will come. They will use the spaces if they're meeting their needs."

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Burnham Playfield reopens with new turf field, splash pad