Despite a cloudy sky, parents and children lined up to see the new Welles Park play lot near the corner of Western and Sunnyside avenues on Saturday, May 8. The nearly $500,000 play lot includes a rubberized surface, new swings, benches, a jungle gym, and new landscaping, and it’s all enclosed by an iron fence. The play lot was designed by?Chicago-based Site Design Group, which is headed by Lincoln Square resident Ernie Wong. (Full disclosure: Center Square Journal publisher Mike Fourcher’s wife, Teresa, works for Site Design Group.)
Lincoln Square Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th) attended the parks ribbon-cutting ceremony. He said it was important to keep the play lot away from the traffic-heavy Montrose Avenue and closer to the field house, where bathrooms are located. Schulter gave $100,000 from his aldermanic menu account to help fund the project, which also received money from the Chicago Park District, the state, the Chicago Cubs, and community fundraisers.
During the 70s, Schulter briefly worked as a janitor at the park before he was selected by then-47th Ward Committeeman Ed Kelly to run for alderman in 1975 against Republican incumbent John Hoellen Jr., who once proposed scrapping the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza and replacing it with a statue of Cubs shortstop player Ernie Banks. (Hoellen was also one of the early advocates for the creation of a three-digit emergency telephone number.) Schulter?said he didn’t think about running for alderman when he worked at Welles Park.
“No, never,” said Schulter. “Actually, I was a janitor out here for about six or seven months. I got to know a lot about the community and got to know the parks.”
Schulter said he’d like to see the play lot expand with more landscaping in the future.