KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Businessman Thomas Boyd is helping to raise funds needed for a public-private collaboration to re-energize and upgrade Fort Kid.
The playground was constructed by volunteers 28 years ago and is in need of major repairs.
Boyd, who pledged the initial $200,000, said he has fond memories of growing up and playing at Fort Kid and he wants to make sure his 1-year-old daughter, and everyone else in the area, has the same opportunity.
An anonymous donor is contributing another $100,000.
The City of Knoxville has designated $300,000 in the 2019-20 budget to prepare the site. The release said the site-preparation work will begin toward the end of this year.
According to a release from the city, Knoxville Museum of Art Executive Director David Butler sees the huge untapped potential of engaging with families by extending public art and programming to the iconic Fort Kid play area across the street from the museum’s front door.
“Fort Kid is such a close neighbor, it’s practically an extension of the KMA,” Butler said. “We’re excited that plans are moving along so well and look forward to helping however we can with the enhancement of this treasured community asset.”
Boyd is the owner of Rebel Kitchen, Old City Wine Bar, Barley’s and Merchants of Beer.
“Fort Kid has always been a much-loved and central part of our downtown community,” he said. “Growing up in Knoxville and having gone to Fort Kid as a child absolutely helped develop not only my love of this playground, but also my love of our downtown. I can’t wait for my own child to experience this improved version of one of my favorite childhood memories!”
He is organizing a music festival later this year, with proceeds going to the Fort Kid fundraising campaign. More details on the festival will be announced in the coming weeks.
With $600,000 already in hand and more funds being raised, Boyd, Butler and Mayor Rogero are excited by Fort Kid’s potential.
“It is the City’s intention to partner with the community to reconstruct and enhance Fort Kid,” Mayor Madeline Rogero said. “We’re grateful to Thomas Boyd and other donors for stepping up to make Fort Kid the very best it can be."
The Fort Kid playground off World’s Fair Park Drive temporarily closed in November 2018 after a Knox County Health Department inspector responded to a citizen complaint and found a number of problems, such as exposed nails, trip hazards and splintered wooden components, a release from the city said. The Public Building Authority over the winter made minor repairs to the City-owned playground, which reopened March 28.
The city said safety and accessibility are the two main issues being addressed in the Fort Kid upgrade. Right now, Fort Kid does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
"The original retaining wall that supports the play area has decayed and must be replaced. Many of the wooden components of Fort Kid have aged and metal fasteners have rusted. Repairs and maintenance of the outdated play structure are challenging," the release said.
The city said it will cost about $300,000 to replace the wall with a grassy sloped area. That work will get underway late this year and will prepare the site for the reconstruction of Fort Kid. Work on the landscaping and new amenities will begin once the grassy slope is in place.
Supporters of Fort Kid will be invited to share their ideas about the design and amenities they’d like to see at the new play area. A public charrette will be scheduled later this year.