Blue Jackets make first hockey-themed playground a reality
By Alison Lukan - FOXSportsOhio.com
Blue Jackets Forward Mark Letestu thinks he’s going to be a little stiff and sore this weekend.
On Thursday, Letestu joined Jackets Head Coach Todd Richards and approximately 200 other volunteers on the east side of Columbus to build a hockey-themed playground for the Krumm Park community.
A $45,000 grant from the Blue Jackets Foundation made the playground possible.
The concept was a perfect fit for the Foundation, which includes promoting fitness through healthy play as part of its mission.
“It fell right in line with what the Foundation wants to do,” explained Jenn Bowden, Vice President of Community Relations and Executive Director of the Blue Jackets Foundation. “Kids learn about staying healthy by going outside and playing with their friends. Having a safe place to play is a part of that.”
The project began when Ohio Parks and Recreation brought the idea of a hockey-themed playground to the Foundation and suggested Krumm Park.
The park’s playground was in need of repair and the surrounding community already had a strong relationship to hockey. A hockey deck was built in the park in 2009, and the Columbus Ice Hockey Club has brought hockey to local children through the “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative developed by the National Hockey League over seven year ago.
“When you come here, you realize this community really loves hockey and the Blue Jackets. There are kids out here playing street hockey all day,” Bowden said.
The newly installed playground is the first hockey-themed playground in existence.
Playworld Midstates Managing Partner Blake Hobson confirmed the original design.
“We came up with 15 different concepts for a hockey-themed playground for them to choose from,” Said Hobson.
Once a design was selected, Hobson and Playworld built the playground equipment over seven weeks, including a custom tool and die cast to craft the one-of-a-kind hockey stick posts.
“It’s pretty cool that it’s the Blue Jackets that have done something like this,” said Letestu.
After a week of on-site preparation, Thursday marked the installation of the playground equipment.
Blue Jackets employees turned out in large numbers to participate in the construction efforts.
“Our community supports us and what we do, and part of our job and responsibility is to support our community,” Coach Richards said.
Bowden credited the culture of the organization for the turnout. Volunteers included Blue Jackets President Mike Priest.
“(Priest) was out pushing a wheelbarrow all day long – when you have that kind of leadership at the top – it’s a model for how the rest of the staff is expected to give back,” Bowden said.
The resulting playground included climbing walls with posts made from pucks and other Blue Jackets imagery. Coach Richards approved.
“They get to see a little bit of hockey. It’s great to see the red white and blue and the Columbus logo and the hockey sticks up top,” he said.
The goal of the playground is to provide a safe place to play for local children and Bowden hopes the concept takes off with hockey teams around the world.
“I think around the league, hockey teams are known for giving back and being great community partners,” said Bowden. “I think there’s an opportunity to spread the hockey love throughout the NHL and help other teams understand how they can bring hockey into the community in a non-traditional way.”
The playground will be open for use beginning Monday.
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