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Sunday's bitter cold did not stop Attim Roseborough, 7, his brother Steven, 11, and their cousin Avieon Smith, 9, from being among the first neighborhood kids to test the jumping, spinning, and climbing possibilities of the new Conestoga Community Playground at Media and 53rd Streets in West Philadelphia.
After fueling up on chips and soft drinks from a corner store, they ran over to the bright orange, purple, and green hoops and cables suspended above the new safety surface, and couldn't stop smiling.
"Look!" Attim yelled over to his brother and cousin, who were swaying back and forth in the air on a hoop contraption as if they were on a ship's crow's nest in stormy seas. "Look!" Attim demanded, directing their attention to a suspended hammock chair he was standing in. "This thing spins! Somebody push me!"
The two boys joined him and soon, they were all spinning so hard together, it was a miracle they managed to digest their recent intake of snacks.
"Oh, ha ha ha!" Attim laughed, then screamed as if on a roller coaster down the Shore. "Again!" he commanded when they came to a stop. He got his wish.
Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, which funded the $600,000 makeover with design costs contributed by its partner, the Trust for Public Land, said the refurbished park "sets a new bar for what should not be the exception but the norm in communities like West and North Philadelphia."
She said the Conestoga Community Playground makeover will be the norm over the next several years, after the city issues $300 million in bonds supported by the soda tax; the William Penn Foundation contributes a promised $100 million; and other funders push the total over $500 million to revitalize Philadelphia's rec centers, parks, and libraries.
"We have 250 playgrounds and probably 200 need work," she said. "You go to the new Conestoga playground and you think, 'Oh, my gosh, we're going to be able to do this all over the city.' Never before in our lifetime has anything like this happened. All eyes are on Philadelphia."
Emani Walker, 5, lives next door to the new playground and week after week she watched from her window as construction workers built it along with a new tot lot and basketball court.
"She was waiting for so long for this," her uncle Malik Ruffin said, watching Emani carefully climb up the artificial-stone footholds on the slide and ride down. "All day long, all she kept talking about was when she could play here. She'd ask the workers, 'When is it going to be done?' "
Ruffin said the new playground replaced an old, broken-down concrete basketball court. "They had a swing over there but it wasn't a safe swing," he said. "I didn't let my niece play on it. I'm just happy she can get out here now and play instead of just sitting in the house. As long as she's happy, I'm happy."
Ott Lovell said she wants children all over the city to experience the happiness that a beautiful new playground brings.
"When I go to neighborhoods that have been so underinvested for so long," she said, "and ask people what they want, they say, 'Can I get some trash cans?' or 'Let's maybe get some new benches?' It's hard to dream big when you've been struggling so long to get the basics. There's a generation of people who have gone through their lives praying for this to happen at their facilities. Now, it can happen."