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MKE Plays

The MKE Plays initiative, conceived by Alderman Michael Murphy, aims to transform 14 of the city’s most deteriorated playgrounds into models for local collaboration and renovation.
Meet Me At the Park


The Playgrounds

The following playgrounds were chosen for the initial phase of the MKE Plays program:

Arlington Heights

Foundation Park

Johnnie Mae Phillips

DeBack Park

67th & Spokane

Long Island & Custer

Buffum & Center


5th & Randolph

21st & Keefe

34th & Mt. Vernon

Snails Crossing






How Were They Chosen?

The Department of Public Works (DPW) maintains 64 playgrounds for the city of Milwaukee. In 2013, DPW completed a thorough assessment of each park and identified the twelve parks most in need of attention. Selection criteria included a number of factors, such as condition of play equipment, landscaping, surfaces, asphalt, infrastructure, ADA compliance, and number of years since last renovation.

The Benefits

The restoration of the City’s playgrounds will bring much-needed improvement to many of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, and will create safe and attractive places for families to play. At a time when obesity is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and when close to 35% of Milwaukee high school students are either overweight or obese, the transformation of Milwaukee play areas can make a big impact.

Involving area residents in playground restoration also provides opportunities for people to get to know one another and develop a sense of ownership in their community. The social capital needed to improve neighborhood playgrounds through the MKE Plays initiative is as much an asset as the required financial capital, and is more likely to lead to additional community action.

Finally, in collaboration with Milwaukee Public Schools, MKE Plays will work to provide older youth with summer job opportunities as “play leaders” trained to help younger children engage in safe, organized games and other play at the playgrounds.

How Will We Do It?

Initial funding from the Zilber Foundation will help pay for the reconstruction of the first two playgrounds in the Layton Boulevard West and Lindsay Heights neighborhoods.

MKE Plays will seek to accomplish its vision of better playgrounds for Milwaukee youth by:

  • Matching private funds with public dollars.

  • Offering various financing structures to inspire playground sponsorship.

  • Involving community residents in the design and construction process.

  • Encouraging the use of nationally demonstrated playground building models.

  • Assessing the impacts of program activities on the lives of beneficiary communities through transparent and methodical evaluations. 

Learn More



Donate to MKE Plays Initiative

Thank you sponsors!

The MKE Plays initiative






Annette J. Roberts and Joan R. Robertson Fund for World Peace, World Law and Peace Education

Stewart Edwards & Joanne Danforth

Our Progress

Check out what's happening at the following parks:

MKE Plays in the News

Contact Us

Joe Kaltenberg
MKE Plays Program Coordinator
[email protected]

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