Fort Kid contractor OK’d

Eric VreelandInside 640, Our Town Kids

Knoxville City Council on Tuesday unanimously authorized Mayor Indya Kincannon’s staff to finalize an agreement for up to $450,000 with Great Southern Recreation to design and construct a unique, safe and more accessible play structure at Fort Kid.


Murfreesboro-based Great Southern Recreation was deemed the most responsive of the seven companies that offered proposals for a new play structure at Fort Kid, located between 11th Street and World’s Fair Park Drive on the western edge of downtown.

Complementing the city’s public investment, Knoxville business owner Thomas Boyd donated $200,000 to the new Fort Kid play structure, and the Downtown Knoxville Alliance contributed $250,000 to add an accessible entryway path with interactive features on the slope from World’s Fair Park Drive.

The public and private investment in a new Fort Kid honors the spirit of the original while providing the play activities that residents told the city they most valued, said Chip Barry, the city’s deputy chief operating officer.

Fort Kid at its peak

The original 30-year-old play area and a decaying retaining wall made of railroad ties were removed last year due to safety concerns.

“It was always very clear that Fort Kid is cherished and that people wanted its legacy to continue,” Barry said. “This will be a one-of-a-kind play structure, specifically designed for Knoxville. We appreciate the support from our partners and the survey input from nearly 400 people who wanted their children and grandchildren to be able to continue to play at Fort Kid.”

Hedstrom Landscape Architecture has developed a concept for the slope and path, which will be built in conjunction with the city play structure being installed atop a regraded flat area at the top of the hill. The project will include a newly-created accessible entrance to the play structure and a new accessible parking area.

Construction is expected to begin in late summer, and the new play structure will be installed this fall. The entire project is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

During March 2020, the city conducted a survey which found that playground users wanted to maintain a mix of natural elements with vibrant features and earth tones on a unique, connected, multi-level play structure. They favored a design with hiding places and observation points that encourage creative discovery and active exploration.

Climbing and sliding were at the top of the list of most-desired activities. The top-ranked elements included modern features like climbing walls, balance and agility features, and bridges for connectivity.

For project details including more sketches, go here.

Eric Vreeland is deputy director of communications for the city of Knoxville.

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