Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015 | 1:46 p.m.
Elana Hernandez, 10, dangled off of a twisted ladder that looked more like a strand of DNA than a piece of play equipment.
The structure was part of the new playground at Joe Kneip Park in North Las Vegas, which officially reopened today after undergoing a three month renovation.
Hernandez, who lives nearby, said she has been coming to the park since she was 3 years old.
“I was really excited when they said they were going to redo the park,” she said. “This park has everything. I love it.”
Renovations have been in the works for a year, since the park was selected as the National Recreation and Park Association’s community project for 2015. The 2.2 acre park was built in 1965, and although it had received two facelifts over the years, the park was “showing signs of love and wear and tear,” said Cass Palmer, the city’s director of neighborhood and leisure services.
Thanks to $500,000 in donations and $350,000 from the city, the park was completely revamped. It features a new splash pad, playground, exercise area, bathroom and turf as well as a renovated basketball court.
North Las Vegas resident Esperanza Villarreal used to bring her three children to the park twice a month. Now, with the extra amenities, she said she planned to come at least three times a week so her boys could play soccer and she could use the exercise equipment.
“It looks really nice compared to what it was before,” Villarreal said.
The park’s playground features futuristic-looking play equipment, most notably a pseudo-video game called Neos. The piece of equipment featured eight games kids could play, running around in a circle between eight posts with colored lights and buttons to push.
There was also a special shaded exercise area for adults, with five pieces of equipment that up to 14 people could use at a time.
At the opening ceremony for the park, Councilman Isaac Barron, whose ward encompasses the park, choked up as he told the crowd of hundreds in both English and Spanish what the renovations meant for the community.
“I’ll speak from the heart. For us, this park is the very fiber of who we are,” Barron said. “If you took an aerial tour of the valley, you’ll know when you’re in Summerlin or Green Valley. When you come to this side of town, it’s different. There are very little green spaces.”
State Sen. Ruben Kihuen told the crowd that he grew up playing soccer on the fields at the park, marking the goal by placing their shoes on the ground. Mayor John Lee thanked the National Recreation and Park Association for their help in making the renovations possible, saying that it had done “something good in North Las Vegas.”
Hundreds of parks and recreation officials from across the country and Canada, in town for the association’s annual conference, attended the event as well. The association has been helping renovate a park near the location of its annual conference for the past six years, according to the association’s director of marketing and communication Lauren Hoffmann.
Victor Richard, the chief executive officer of the New Orleans recreation department, said he had a chance to see the park before construction was done and that the renovations were “long overdue.”
“It’s gorgeous now,” Richard said. “It’s what every neighborhood should have.”
Mariachi musicians and dancers from nearby Ed Von Tobel Middle School closed the ceremony with song and dance.
“This is a part of residents’ lives,” Barron said. “This park is a gift from the angles.”