Kids’ play area on Summerfest grounds to be redeveloped into community park

A rendering of the north view of the Northwestern Mutual Community Park playground. (Rendering: EUA)

Last updated on May 26th, 2022 at 07:46 am

The children’s theater and play area of the Summerfest grounds will be redeveloped into a 54,000-square-foot community park, festival operator Milwaukee World Festival Inc. announced Wednesday.

The redevelopment plans for the Northwestern Mutual Children’s Theater & Playzone, which has been in place at Henry Maier Festival Park since 2006, include installing accessible playground surfaces, preformed play area markings and all new play equipment, as well as reconfiguring the area for “adaptable activation areas and exhibit spaces,” MWF said.

The redeveloped area will be named the Northwestern Mutual Community Park. MWF and the Northwestern Mutual Foundation didn’t disclose the foundation’s investment in the project.

When completed, the park will include a permanent covered stage structure with accessible seating and a viewing area for more than 500 people; a new 1,800-square-foot family services building that includes restrooms, nursing mothers stations and a sensory room; and 4,000 square feet devoted to flexible programming spaces.

A guiding priority for the design is to offer play for children who may experience a variety of challenges, with the goal of making it one of the most accessible playgrounds in the state, MWF said.

In addition to Summerfest, the area will be available to the public during non-event days at the festival grounds, MWF said. The park is scheduled to open in June 2021.

“Cultural attractions create connections and offer new experiences for residents and visitors,” said Eric Christophersen, president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. “We’re proud to continue to partner with Summerfest through this redevelopment. Through investments like these, we’re helping to actively ensure that everyone can participate in the thriving cultural environment our hometown city of Milwaukee offers.”

Redeveloping the children’s area has been a priority for some time, said Don Smiley, president and CEO of MWF.

“We are exceptionally grateful to all of our sponsors for their support in making Henry Maier Festival Park a world-class venue for fans of all ages,” he said.

The project is subject to Board of Harbor Commissioners review and approval.

Eppstein Uhen Architect is the lead architectural firm for the design of the park and JCP Construction is managing the construction of the project.

The project is the latest in a series of upgrades to Henry Maier Festival Park over the past decade. The grounds’ new American Family Insurance Amphitheater, which underwent a $53 million renovation over the past two years, was slated for its grand opening this summer before Summerfest was canceled due to COVID-19.

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