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Eastside’s Henry L. Brown Kooker Park has long been a place for mentoring. The park’s namesake spent 30 years running youth athletic programs for inner city kids at the 5-acre site just off Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway. Brown coached thousands of young athletes at the park from 1973 until his death in 2003.Those who coach there now say Brown would be proud of how the community is bringing it back to life.
Kooker Park declined sharply after Brown passed and the Boys & Girls Club moved its programs out. Community leaders, including some who played there as children, began revitalizing the park about seven years ago. Now, with leadership from LISC Jacksonville and Operation New Hope and grant funding from ESPN and the NFL Foundation’s Grassroots Initiative, the facility is about to take a big step forward.
Jacksonville Jaguar officials will joined LISC Jacksonvlle,City officials, and community leaders at the park on Thursday, July 20 at 10:30 a.m. to break ground on and celebrate the start of a major renovation project. The almost century-old park will receive $125,000 worth of improvements including:
The improvements are expected to be completed by September, just in time to host the Little League Vikings’ games this fall. The project will be a big shot in the arm to the urban renewal efforts LISC Jacksonville has been leading on the Eastside, said Janet Owens, president of LISC Jacksonville.“There are many working hard to make Jacksonville’s Historic Eastside a great place to live, work and play again,” stated Janet Owens, executive director of LISC Jacksonville. “We are all very thankful to the Jacksonville Jaguars and ESPN for seeing the potential role this park can play in those crucial community revitalization efforts.”