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The Original Grand Opening Ceremony

On Monday, July 25th of 2005, Our Community-Built Playground at Stadium Place had it's official grand opening celebration. It was held in the gymnasium of the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg YMCA nextdoor. Many participants and contributors came to relive the build through recollections, a slideshow and many many thanks.
A local youth jazz ensemble opened the evening, and the same folks that organized feeding the builders served sheet cake and refreshments to close.
There was a surprise visit at the reception by Tom Kiefaber, the owner of the Senator Theater. He showed up to pass out cartons of popcorn to the children!! How awesome!!

Here is a nice article about it from the
Baltimore Messenger:

Volunteers celebrate opening of playground

By Kaidye Hansen
The Baltimore Messenger

Four-year-old Shawn Sharpe has a swinging good time July 23 on a playground built by thousands of volunteers on the grounds of the old Memorial Stadium in April. Opening ceremonies were held July 25. How do you find, much less feed and equip, 6,000 volunteers to build a community playground?

You look to that community, according to Meredith Curtis-Goode, head of volunteers for the massive 9-day April undertaking that built a 13,000-square-foot playground on what was once a parking lot at the old Memorial Stadium.

The state-of-the-art playground, eight years in the planning, had its grand opening July 25th. Due to heat and rain, the ceremony was held in the nearby Weinberg YMCA.

"Volunteers came from all over the city, all over the state, even from other states. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," Curtis-Goode said as she unrolled a strip of paper bearing the names of each volunteer. It ran the length of the gym floor.

But the best part was that most volunteers were from Waverly itself, giving residents a sense of ownership, she said.

Getting the volunteers was a slow process at first, but quickly sped up after newspapers picked up the story. Television, radio and the Internet followed. Radio stations called for volunteers, as did a volunteer-designed Web Site.

The playground's spiritual connection to the beloved old stadium drew attention to the project and fostered good will.
"People saw it as a homecoming to the stadium site," Curtis-Goode said, "I would get phone calls at all hours of the day and night, people telling me about their first, last or best time seeing the Orioles play at Memorial Stadium. It was fate, being able to build it here. Many people came for the stadium, but they stayed for the playground," she said.
This feeling was echoed in the slogan for the project,
"Bringing play back to 33rd Street."

Project organizer Debra Evans, a longtime Waverly activist known as "Miss Debra" to area residents, pounced on the stadium connection as a promotional tool.
Numerous businesses gave tools, materials and advice, while communities including Oakenshawe, Radnor-Winston and Roland Park brought food for the workers.
"Businesses right in your neighborhood, right down your street, helped to make this happen," she said.

Advising the community on the playground design was Leathers and Associates of Ithaca, N.Y. The company specializes in designing such playgrounds nationwide.

Organizers got nearly twice as many volunteers as they called for. At first, it was difficult to find something for everyone to do.
"People would come and be so excited to even move gravel, just anything to be involved in part of the experience," Curtis-Goode said. "After four to six hours of moving gravel one day, these people would return the next day to move more gravel," she said.

Volunteer Mark Melonas, 29, owner of the custom furniture company Luke Works on Homewood Avenue in Waverly watched happily as his daughter, two-year-old Zoe, played on the new playground with its swings, slides and other fun features.
Helping to build the playground "gave me a chance to use my skills," said Melonas, who moved to nearby Ednor Gardens two years ago in part because of its affordable houses and diversity.
"I would come here (to the site), and they would say, 'Build a bench,' and I would make a bench," he said. He is proud that he helped build community spirit along the way.
"I'm here almost every day. I get to meet the kids I see on the streets and then meet their parents. It's really a beautiful, terrific neighborhood," he said.

Curtis-Goode said the feeling of community extends to the entire city, because playground volunteers "came from every community, every race, every age."

Shaking hands with nearly everyone at the grand opening, Evans said, "I just want everyone to know that this playground not only came from, but is for all of Baltimore."