January 10, 2023

Lilly Endowment commits $80 million for improvements to Indianapolis parks

A map of the parks set to receive upgrades. (Jill Sheridan/WFYI)

A map of the parks set to receive upgrades. (Jill Sheridan/WFYI)

Dozens of parks all across Indianapolis will receive improvements through an $80 million gift. 

The Lilly Endowment is giving Indy Parks and other local parks foundations — including Garfield, Holliday and Eagle Creek — money for projects that range from new splash pads to competition-quality sports fields. Indy Parks Director Phylis Boyd said the local parks system is always in need of investment.  Forty-two parks will be touched through the endowment’s gift.

“With 214 parks it takes a lot of resources to truly reshape, enhance and maintain our spaces inside and out,” Boyd.

Recent investment through the Circle City Forward initiative has committed $45 million to park improvements. Some of those parks, including Frederick Douglass and Riverside, will now receive added funds.

City-County Council President Vop Osili said the commitment to parks improves understanding of their importance.

“As a vital marker and critically important agent of a community's physical, economic and civic health,” Osili said. “Green has never looked so good.”

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the total grant awards represent 14 times the annual Parks budget.

“Our ongoing investment, this announcement, paves the way for transformational improvements to public parks all across Marion County,” Hogsett said.

The effort aligns with Indy Parks’ five-year master plan launched in 2017. The plan prioritizes parks based on geographic diversity, high visitation rates, and an equity analysis that examines park amenity conditions alongside race, income and other demographics.

Lilly Endowment President Jeanette Hill said Indy Parks worked with community members to identify the best ways to support parks.

“We are very pleased that Indy Parks sought input from a broad, diverse group of local residents to determine what improvements and enhancements they want to see in their local parks,” Hill said.

Project design and construction schedule will run through 2025.

A guide to the Indy Parks projects:

Al Polin Park: Al Polin Park is in the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood and was established in 1973. Approximately $600,000 of Lilly Endowment funding will go toward a basketball court upgrade, walkway improvements, playground replacements, and beautification.

Chapel Hill: Indy Parks worked with Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in developing the park’s master plan and entered into a long-term land lease agreement. The $2 million in Lilly Endowment funding will help replace the playground, upgrade the basketball court and baseball diamond, and add pickleball courts, a comfort station and a splash pad.

Dubarry Park: This 27-acre east side park offers a playground, comfort station, fishing pond, and sledding hill. The $700,000 in Lilly Endowment funding will go to a new splash pad.

Eagle Creek Park: With more than 5,000 acres, Eagle Creek Park is the largest park in the Indy Parks system and celebrated its 50th birthday in 2022. Recent investments in the park have resulted in $831,362 in improvements. The $2.6 million from Lilly Endowment funding will support accessibility upgrades for the Pin Oak Trail near the Earth Discovery Center, additional community program engagement, and the development of a documentary about the park’s history.

Franklin Township Community Park: This 99-acre park is located next to Franklin Central High School. More than $2.8 million in Lilly Endowment funding will support construction of a new playground, shelter, hardcourts, and the paving of the existing nature trail.

Frederick Douglass Park: Located in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood at Andrew J. Brown and E. 25th Street, the 43-acre park was established in 1921. As part of Circle City Forward, the city has secured almost $23 million for a new family center, including fitness areas, locker rooms, a gym, and program activity space. In spring 2021, project organizers and designers began meeting with the public to create plans for the new facility, and the final design was presented in July 2021. More than $5.2 million in Lilly Endowment funding will support construction of a new playground, multi-use synthetic sports fields, and office furnishings and appliances.

Garfield Park: Established in 1876, Garfield Park is the city’s oldest park and includes unique amenities, such as a conservatory, the Sunken Gardens, and the MacAllister Center for the Performing Arts. It will use $5.5 million in Lilly Endowment funding to improve the Pagoda, playgrounds, and Sunken Garden fountains.

Geisse Soccer Park: The Mary and John Geisse Soccer Complex at Eagle Creek Park will receive more than $2.4 million in Lilly Endowment funding for improvements to the park’s drainage system, pavilion shelter, and comfort stations to accommodate expanded programming.

Graham Edward Martin Park: Located on 67 acres near Fall Creek Parkway East Drive and West 16th Street, this park will benefit from $1.86 million in Lilly Endowment funding. The project includes construction of a splash pad, a shelter, two parking lots, pickleball courts, a comfort station, and improvements to the sports fields near Crispus Attucks High School. The city has committed an additional $450,000 to improve playground facilities.

Grassy Creek Regional Park: Located at the intersection of E. 30th Street and N. German Church Road, Grassy Creek has many natural amenities such as wetlands, lowlands, and forests. The $5.65 million in Lilly Endowment funding will be used to construct new playgrounds and park trails and provide furnishings and appliances for a new environmental center. The city has secured an additional $8.6 million in funding to acquire 82 acres of land and construct the environmental center.

Gustafson Park: This 30-acre park is located at 3010 Moller Road. Planned improvements include a new digital scoreboard, comfort station, playground, and basketball courts. The $1.6 million in Lilly Endowment funding will help upgrade the existing football field to a synthetic multi-purpose field.

Holliday Park: The 94-acre Holliday Park is home to the Ruins, a 13,000-square-foot nature center, and more than 3.5 miles of trails. City-secured funding of $1.5 million and $3 million in Lilly Endowment funding will go to playground and signage improvements, walkway upgrades, and gazebo maintenance.

Krannert Park: This park is located adjacent to Interstate 465 between Rockville Road and W. Washington Street. The existing family center is being improved to make room for new exercise areas, multi-purpose rooms, locker rooms, a new enclosed swimming pool, and an exterior splash pad. Circle City Forward funds totalling $10.6 million will go to the family center renovation, while $3.73 million in Lilly Endowment funding will upgrade the playground, trails, and basketball court.

Kuntz Sports Complex: This park is located at 1502 W. 16th St. The $2.75 million in Lilly Endowment funding will help convert the practice field from natural turf to synthetic turf, improve the grade and irrigation of the main field, and install new LED stadium lighting at both fields.

Major Taylor Skate Park: Part of the Indy Cycloplex at 3649 Cold Spring Road, the skate park features the Major Taylor Velodrome, criterium bike course, and a BMX track. The $750,000 in Lilly Endowment funding will help expand the popular skate park and add LED sports lighting to extend operational hours.

Perry Park: Located on the city’s south side and established in 1961, Perry Park offers outdoor recreational opportunities and includes Indy Parks’ only permanent ice rink. The city has secured $1.1 million in local funds for aquatic and park improvements and has allotted $1.3 million in Lilly Endowment funding for a new playground and shelter.

Riverside Regional Park: Established in 1903, the 862-acre park is located along the White River on the city’s near west side. The Riverside Regional Park Master Plan responded to neighbor and stakeholder desires for new amenities and updates, including an aquatic center and athletic fields, converting Riverside Golf Course into an adventure park, building Riverside Promenade, and renovating Taggart Memorial into a performance venue. Through Circle City Forward, the city has secured more than $6.5 million for the adventure park and promenade. A previous Lilly Endowment grant funded the Taggart Memorial project. Lilly Endowment’s latest grant will provide $11.55 million for new sidewalks and nature trails, enhancements along White River, upgrades to the soap box derby track and development of the Taggart Memorial Playground.

Sahm Park: Located at 6801 E. 91st St., the park will be connected to the Nickel Plate Greenway once that trail is developed. Due to increasing demand for community rental spaces, $2.7 million in Lilly Endowment funding will help renovate the tennis pavilion, add additional shelters and walkways, improve parking, and replace the playground (built in 1996), which will feature adult exterior fitness equipment.

Southside Park: Located in the University Heights and Rosedale Hills neighborhoods, this park is a short walk from the University of Indianapolis and serves students and community residents. The $2 million in Lilly Endowment funding will help install a new playground, adult fitness equipment, a sports field, hardcourts and a shelter.

Southwestway Park: This is the city’s second largest park and features an extensive network of hiking and mountain biking trails, baseball and soccer fields, and a playground. The $1.25 million in Lilly Endowment funding will go toward construction of a comfort station, a shelter, an expanded parking lot and a playground with adult fitness equipment.

Tarkington Park: Located near W. 39th and N. Meridian streets, the park boasts a splash pad, performance shelter, and basketball and tennis courts. The $3 million in Lilly Endowment funding will help complete phase two of the park’s master plan by adding circular walkways, additional shelters, a farmers market pavilion, and field improvements to better serve youth football leagues.

Tolin Akeman Park: This five-acre park is located at 4459 Shelbyville Road  The $1.27 million in Lilly Endowment funding will go towards upgrading a playground, and adding a shelter, basketball court, pickleball courts, and a walking trail.

Washington Park: With more than 120 acres on the city’s near east side the park features extensive green space, a family recreation center, an outdoor basketball complex, walking trails, playgrounds, an 18-hole disk golf course, and a mountain bike course programmed in partnership with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Through Circle City Forward, the city has committed $437,000 to improve the family center, add a northside playground and shelter, and a new design for the center playground and splash pad. Another $3.5 million in Lilly Endowment funding will help replace the central playground (built in 1995) and add a new splash pad, shelter, parking lot, and comfort station.

World Sports Park: Located at 1313 S. Post Road, this 46-acre east side park consists of three multi-use sports fields for cricket, lacrosse, hurling, rugby, and Gaelic football. The $5.1 million dollar facility was completed in 2014. It will use $2.15 million in Lilly Endowment funding for a new concession pavilion with restrooms and a paved parking lot.

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