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Hundreds celebrate reopening of Oak Park’s renovated McClatchy Park

Ellyn Kuyper, 7, sits on one of three stationary carousal carousel horses at Oak Park’s newly renovated James McClatchy Park. on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014, during the park’s grand opening celebration. The landmark underwent a $2.8 million renovation.
Ellyn Kuyper, 7, sits on one of three stationary carousal carousel horses at Oak Park’s newly renovated James McClatchy Park. on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014, during the park’s grand opening celebration. The landmark underwent a $2.8 million renovation. lsterling@sacbee.com

Laughter filled the air at Sacramento’s James McClatchy Park on Saturday as hundreds gathered to celebrate the reopening of the neighborhood landmark.

Some kids spent the morning testing out swings, while others brought out skateboards to tear up the new skate park. The 20-acre property in the city’s storied Oak Park area received a significant face-lift over the past few months as crews installed a state-of-the-art playground, along with basketball and tennis courts.

City officials hope the renovations will help spur a revitalization of the neighborhood and long-neglected park, which in recent years had fallen into disrepair. The $2.8 million project was largely funded by a state grant, with the city of Sacramento pitching in $300,000, according to Vice Mayor Jay Schenirer, who represents the area and attended Saturday’s event.

“This is a community that deserves this park,” Schenirer said.

At the turn of the 20th century, McClatchy Park was known as Joyland, a popular local attraction that had its own wooden roller coaster and drew 10,000 people on its opening day in 1913. But a fire burned most of the rides in 1920, forcing its closure.

Seven years later, Valentine McClatchy purchased the property and gifted the grounds to the city on the condition that it be named after his father, James McClatchy, the late newspaper magnate widely known as founder of The Sacramento Bee.

As part of the update, designers took a chapter from the park’s past as a former amusement center, placing an oversized ice cream cone and popcorn box in front of the new play structure.

“It’s about capturing the spirit of the past,” Jim Combs, the city’s parks and recreation director.

Mayor Kevin Johnson, an Oak Park native, was among several local officials who showed up Saturday for a ceremony and celebration party.

“I grew up in this park. … I played basketball in this park,” Johnson said. “Dreams are going to start at this park.”

Asked what his childhood dream was, the mayor said, “I knew I wanted to do something good. I didn’t know it was going to be mayor or playing basketball.”

Attendees, including Taneyah Sago, feasted on grilled hot dogs, cotton candy and ice cream cones.

Taneyah, 13, said the six new swing sets were “a lot better,” than the old ones.

But for Jacob Lopez, 12, who typically skateboards on his driveway, the concrete skate park was the day’s highlight.

“The fact that they added it was amazing,” Jacob said, taking a rest from grinding his board.

Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.

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