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Site work now underway: Construction on new Lotito Park playground set for April 11

Mar. 16—By GREG JORDAN

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — A playground that served Mercer County's children for years is gone, but plans are moving ahead to bring a new playground and other new features to Lotito City Park.

The old Yakkity Yak Playground has been removed, leaving a footprint which will become the new playground's site, said Curtis French, interim engineering services/stormwater director for the city of Bluefield

"Public Works has done a great job demolishing the site and they are actually doing the majority of the heavy lifting on this one," French said. "They have the large excavator and they've had quite a lot of water inflow initially when we pulled the mulch layer back. We thought it was best we give it a firmer foundation, so no sinking, heaving or moving in the future. We have excavated a little and we have added stone and gravel. That's what's taking place right now and continuing."

In addition to a new playground, there will be a green space for parties and other activities between the playground and another coming attraction, the 40-yard dash. A splash pad planned for 2025 will be near the playground, too. The splash pad is scheduled to be built in 2025.

Rick Showalter, the city's director of Parks and Recreation, said the 40-yard dash lets people time how fast they can run 40 yards. Lined with turf like a football field, it will have red, yellow and green lights signaling when to start running.

"The 40-yard dash will open up this spring along with the playground," Showalter said. "That is under contract. That will be built. It will be a nice feature."

Showalter said he expects the 40-yard dash to be a popular feature. He recalled when a new playground and other attractions opened at a Christiansburg, Va. park. A lot of the children who came that day were lined up at the 40-yard dash.

A timer lets them know how quickly they ran 40 yards.

French said the playground's construction is scheduled to start April 11.

"Equipment was delivered Tuesday of this past week. I think we're on schedule for April 11 for their crew to come back in from Game Time Equipment and start doing the installation," he said.

The playground's plans include six slides, a walkway bridge and two swing sets. It will not include a zip line featured at the old playground, French said. A teepee, train and other equipment from the old playground have been donated to Camp Joy near Bluefield, Va.

Crews are preparing for the 40-yard dash, too.

"We're working on those simultaneously," French said. "The stormwater crew is actually doing the digging for the new drainage down through the side there for the 40-yard dash and Public Works is doing the work inside the playground area and doing the leveling and grading and that kind of thing. The splash pad will be a 2025 thing."

French asked the public to be patient while the work is going on and to stay out of the construction zone as much as possible.

"But it should come together really quickly. The people tell me the equipment is placed," he said.

Another new feature is the surface children will be playing on. Instead of mulch, there will be a plastic/rubber mix to help cushion them if they fall.

"The kids won't hit concrete," French said. "There's actually no concrete pad that will be poured underneath. It will be stone and then it will be 4 inches of that plastic/rubber material. Once they do that and pour that, it's literally a week after that when it will be open. It should be a quick turnaround process once they get started. April 11 I believe is the kick off day and looking at two and a half weeks be done. It will be pretty awesome."

In August 2023, the Shott Foundation contributed about $229,000 for the new playground project.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com