Parts of McEuen Field reopened to the public Friday after more than a year of construction work at the downtown Coeur d’Alene park.
By midmorning, preschoolers were swarming over the new play equipment while their parents critiqued the multimillion-dollar makeover of the 20-acre park on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Most of the responses were enthusiastic.
“I’m blown away; there’s so much unique stuff,” said Tiffany Goodrick, of Coeur d’Alene, while her daughter, 3-year-old Aubree, dug holes in the sand before zipping down a slide and then pounding out notes on a sturdy plastic xylophone. “Now, I’ll come here more often.”
“It’s gorgeous,” said Kathy Leier, Goodrick’s mother. “I work at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, so I’ve been seeing all the transformation. … There’s a lot of things for the kids, for the little ones.”
Friday’s soft opening gave the public access to amenities on the park’s east end, which includes the play area, tennis and basketball courts, an off-leash area for dogs and a splash pad that will become operational when the weather gets warmer.
Most of the action centered on the play area, where Kathleen Simis sat on a bench, watching her energetic 3-year-old navigate “Adventure McEuen,” a sprawling jungle gym in neon colors. Her daughter, Maia Tuttle, had been playing on the equipment for an hour.
Simis said that before the renovation, she stopped at the park with her children when they visited the Coeur d’Alene Library, but mostly they strolled through the park.
“It looks like there’s a lot of demand for this kind of space,” said local attorney Duane Rasmussen, as he watched the young families in the play section. “Look how occupied it is.”
Proponents of McEuen’s $20 million upgrade argued that one of the city’s most valuable green spaces was underutilized by local residents. But the plan was hotly debated by others, who questioned the price and the elements of the park design. The $20 million project includes rebuilding Front Avenue and moving surface parking underground. Most of the improvements are being funded through an urban renewal district.
The west side of McEuen Park remains under construction and fenced off. Workers were busy putting in plants and landscape pavers for the May 24 ribbon-cutting, when the park will open in its entirety. Amenities on the park’s west side include a grand plaza, veterans memorial and a grassy amphitheater.
The new McEuen will be an asset for Coeur d’Alene’s downtown retail district, said Karla Schroeder, who sells antiques at a local shop. The park’s makeover will bring more families downtown, and they’ll stay to eat out and shop, she predicted.