Mayor Daley Joins U.S. Olympic Committee, Allstate and Chicago 2016 to Dedicate Olympic-Themed Playground and New Fieldhouse At Jesse Owens Park

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Jessica Maxey-Faulkner Chicago Park District (312) 742-4786
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Mayor Richard M. Daley, Alderman Michelle Harris (8th) and State Representative Marlow Colvin (33rd) joined the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), Allstate, Chicago 2016, the Chicago Park District and members of the Jesse Owens family to dedicate a new fieldhouse and Olympic-themed playground at Jesse Owens Park, 8800 S. Clyde, on the city’s South Side.

“Two weeks from today the International Olympic Committee will select the next host city for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Mayor Daley. “That’s why today, with great excitement, we are celebrating Jesse Owens’ impact to our city and to the Olympic Movement by dedicating this Olympic-themed playground and new fieldhouse in his honor.”

Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany. He first gained national attention in Chicago in 1933, when he equaled the world 100-yard dash record in the National High School Championship meet.

“Throughout his life, he embodied the commitment of the Olympic Movement to young people, and Chicago keeps his memory alive not only with this park where young people play, compete and learn the values of sport, but also at the Jesse Owens Community Academy where young people learn,” said Mayor Daley.

Plans for the new fully accessible playground were announced by Allstate and the USOC in 2008, during the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Chicago. The playground not only serves as a fun and safe place to play for local children and future Olympians and Paralympians, but also as a symbol of commitment to enhancing Chicago-area communities.

“The ‘Little Hands’ Playground is the first Olympic-themed playground in our city,” said Mayor Daley. “I’d like to thank Allstate for this state-of-the-art facility and for its commitment to promoting the Olympic Movement and enhancing our neighborhoods.”

The playground features competition stations throughout the playground with Olympic-inspired artwork by Chicago Art Group, a spray pool, Olympic medallions referencing important statistical Olympic records, a track-themed pathway bordering the playground, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility.

“Allstate is committed to improving Chicago’s neighborhoods and our longstanding partnership with the City of Chicago and the USOC has allowed us to leave this physical Olympic legacy for the City of Chicago,” said Alice Byrne, Field Vice President, Allstate Midwest Region. “It is our hope that the ‘Little Hands’ Playground will provide a healthy and safe environment for children to play and envision their own Olympic dreams.”

The fieldhouse features a competition-sized gymnasium, fitness and club rooms, locker rooms, administrative support offices and central air conditioning, and it is fully ADA accessible. The building was designed to achieve a Silver rating under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Rating System. Some of green elements of the building include a green roof, efficient lighting systems and a reflective roof and paving, which reduce the urban heat island effect.

Funds for the 18,500-square-foot field house were provided with $3.5 million from the state, $3.2 million from the city, and $3 million from proceeds from the Chicago Park District’s lease of its parking garages.

“This is a banner day for us,” said Parks Superintendent Tim Mitchell.  “In these tough economic times, the Chicago Park District could not afford to bring projects like these to deserving communities alone. Thanks to the public-private partnership that has brought together the City of TIF funds, State Rep Colvin’s member initiative funds, and a private donation from the Allstate Foundation and the USOC, we realize more than $9 million dollars in improvements to this park.”

“Jesse Owens is an iconic Olympian and important part of Chicago’s connection to the Olympic Movement,” said Patrick G. Ryan, chairman and CEO of Chicago 2016. “We are excited to take part in such a heartwarming occasion-dedicating this wonderful park that will bring a new play space to our youth—and celebrating and honoring his life.”

With the announcement of the Host City for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games two weeks away, the opening of the playground and new field house is the latest catalyst to support Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Games.

“Allstate has been a longtime, supportive partner to the USOC and has shown a tremendous commitment to the Olympic Movement,” said USOC Acting Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Streeter. “Through programs like the ‘Little Hands’ Playgrounds, Allstate is spreading the Olympic spirit and active living opportunities to youth in Chicago. This playground is a shining example of the legacy of the Chicago 2016 bid, just as it’s a vision of the legacy the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games will leave for the youth of Chicago. The USOC extends our gratitude to Allstate and the City of Chicago for all they are doing to spread the Olympic spirit and to help make Chicago a true ‘playground of sport.'”

Also in attendance at the dedication were Chicago Park District Superintendent Tim Mitchell, Allstate Field Vice President Alice Byrne, USOC Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird, Board Chair, Chicago Park District Bob Pickens, Board President of the Chicago Park District Gery Chico, Public Building Commission Executive Director Erin Lavin Cabonargi, Director of Paralympic Sport and Accessibility for Chicago for Chicago 2016 Linda Mastandrea, Olympian Diane Simpson (Gymnastics 1988), Olympian Willie May (Athletics, 1960), Ann Swisshelm, Olympian (Curling 2002) and members of the Jesse Owens family.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their contributions for helping to make this new and improved park a reality,” said Mayor Daley. “This refurbished park is a good example of the private and public sector working to benefit our city.”