It’s no secret the presence of playful spaces is integral to a community’s growth and development. When the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation set out to make cities throughout Tennessee more healthy and playful, we were honored to be part of their philanthropic mission. This is the first in a series of articles about the many new parks and playgrounds made possible by the philanthropy of the foundation.
Partners for Healthier Families
BlueCross Blue Shield of Tennessee understands the importance of providing communities with places that help them get to know one another, form new connections and enjoy healthy activity. Their Healthy Place initiative is designed to accomplish that goal. Since 2019, BCBST has constructed five Blue Cross Healthy Places utilizing commercial playground equipment and park amenities from GameTime.
In honor of their 75th anniversary, BCBST committed to build ten new Healthy Places in 2021! Let’s take a look at how these communities are transformed by the installation of their Healthy Place.
Huntland City Park—Huntland, TN
The BlueCross Healthy Place at Huntland City Park houses a newly constructed, fenced playground with plenty of seating – just as community members requested. It features accessible equipment designed for children of all abilities and meets the criteria for a national demonstration site for inclusive play.
The new BlueCross Healthy Place includes additional features to ensure visitors of all ages can enjoy the space. There is an upgraded pavilion to provide community members with a place for celebrations and gatherings. The park also has a new basketball court with bleachers, outdoor fitness equipment for cardio, core and balance exercises, and a new walking track.
The project also includes additional parking, drinking fountains, grills, picnic tables, and sway benches. Now that’s what we call a complete package.
Highland Park—Chattanooga, TN
Schools are the cornerstone of our communities, and we know it’s necessary to provide students of all ages with a space to play. That’s why the BlueCross Healthy Place at Highland Park is being completed in partnership with two local charter schools, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy and Chattanooga Prep.
The space will be open to the schools’ students and the entire Highland Park community, a growing, diverse neighborhood in Chattanooga. It is the first BlueCross Healthy Place to be completed on privately-owned land.
The new community space boasts a variety of features suitable for visitors of all ages and interests. The design includes a multi-purpose field with bleachers, a walking track with outdoor fitness stations, and an outdoor obstacle course with a 40-yard dash. GameTime also designed playground structures and added basketball and tennis courts.
David Carnes Park—Memphis, TN
In order to ensure a BlueCross Healthy Place will meet the needs of the community, community members must be involved in the planning process. When organizers began planning enhancements to David Carnes Park, BlueCross held neighborhood planning events.
The community meetings also included students from nearby Whitehaven Elementary School to gain a fresh perspective from local children. We also met with local residents to hear their thoughts and ideas for the project. The most common request was a space that would be attractive and accessible to residents of all ages, abilities and walks of life.
The entire BlueCross Healthy Place at David Carnes Park is accessible to people of all abilities. In addition to meeting the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the equipment is easy to use and compliant with modern safety standards. The focus of this park is healthy development and inclusion.
Features in the new space include a pavilion for community gatherings, a splash pad, an accessible playground, an outdoor obstacle course with a 40-yard dash, and improved walking paths. The walking trail features fitness pods and play pockets, including a blacksmith shop that honors David Carnes, one of the first African-American landowners in the area and the park’s namesake.
Miracle League Complex—Kingsport, TN
As you can tell, inclusion and accessibility are core tenets of the BlueCross Healthy Places initiative. The Healthy Place at the Kingsport Miracle League Complex is the perfect embodiment of those values.
The Kingsport Miracle League Field already provides a baseball field for local children and adults with mental and physical disabilities. Community leaders in Kingsport wanted to expand on their beloved baseball field and cater to even more individuals in the area.
After five years of securing funding, planning, and building, the BlueCross Healthy Place was added to the complex. The Kingsport Miracle League Complex features a flat, rubberized safety surface with ramps, inclusive play structures, an accessible merry-go-round, and multisensory playground components that make sound. Like the rest of the complex, the BlueCross Healthy Place is specially designed for youth, young adults and other visitors with special needs.
Henry Horton State Park—Chapel Hill, TN
As the first BlueCross Healthy Place completed within a state park, the Healthy Place at Henry Horton State Park celebrates nature, and the region’s rich biodiversity. The park welcomes around 700,000 visitors each year and is home to beautiful scenery, along with amenities like a golf course, campsites, a lodge and a restaurant.
In addition to improving the accessibility of the park with the installation of two, fully accessible play areas, the project features a discovery trail and several activity pods designed to teach children about area wildlife and the history of the park. These educational play spaces include an erosion table, elements explaining the lifecycle of a frog, and a small gristmill.
Northwest Family YMCA—Nashville, TN
Slated to break ground in late 2020, the Northwest Family YMCA in Nashville will add a BlueCross Healthy Place to their complex. The YMCA has been providing facilities, activities, and engagement for the North Nashville-Bordeaux community for almost 50 years. Creating an accessible recreation space for everyone aligns perfectly with their mission.
The project will include water features, inclusive play areas for children ages 2-5 and 5-12, an outdoor obstacle course, basketball/pickleball courts, multi-purpose field, walking path, and adult fitness equipment. The playground, which is the first BlueCross Healthy Place in Nashville, will be accessible to every resident regardless of their YMCA membership status.
More Than Playgrounds
BlueCross Healthy Places demonstrate a commitment to give back to the people and communities by providing neighbors with spaces for connection and healthy activity. At each BlueCross Healthy Place, new relationships form and strengthen the social backbone of our communities. These projects and partnerships with communities help our neighbors across Tennessee live happier, healthier lives.
For GameTime, working with BCBST to create these beautiful, inclusive, and healthy places is a true honor and privilege. We’re excited to see how communities utilize these spaces, and to see the long-term increase in community vitality and quality of life.
If you are interested in aligning your philanthropic mission with creating fun, active, inclusive spaces for everyone in your community, contact the GameTime play expert in your neighborhood. We will help you plan the perfect place to bring people together and help them live their best life.