AVONDALE — Until last month, not many kids used the playground in Avondale Park.
The wooden equipment was chipped, leaving sharp edges. The metal pieces were rusty, and the twisty slide was wobbly and prone to shake when kids climbed to the top of it.
But now, all that neglected equipment is gone, and kids in the neighborhood have a whole new playground.
"It's wonderful," said Mary Lass Stewart, a neighborhood parent with two daughters. "This neighborhood needs more green space."
The Chicago Park District unveiled three newly-renovated playgrounds — Avondale Park, Morgan Park and Fernwood Park — on Saturday as part of its "Chicago Plays!" program.
Launched last March, the program aims to renovate 300 playgrounds around the city and is paid for with capital funds diverted from new park district field houses, which city officials said cost more but serve less residents.
Avondale Park's playground is one of 40 playgrounds that have been rebuilt or rehabbed so far this year, and the city expects to complete 10 more playgrounds by the end of the month, said park district spokeswoman Marta Juaniza. Each project costs about $125,000, Juaniza said.
Kathy Zielinski, the co-president of Avondale Park's advisory council, said Saturday the city completely tore down the old park and installed the new play equipment last month.
"For some reason, our park had kind of been neglected for a long time," Zielinski said. "This is 100 times better."
In June 2011, two young girls, ages 2 and 7, were shot when they were caught in crossfire of a gang shooting as they played at Avondale Park.
Community residents like Stewart said she is glad to see the city investing in the park because it has a positive impact on the area.
"When you have a place the community demonstrates it cares about and you've got eyes on it — public space where people are — then it makes it a lot harder for people to do things they shouldn't be doing," she said from inside the park's field house Saturday afternoon.
Stewart's two daughter were bundled up and sipping hot chocolate inside the field house, warming up from the winter weather that has descended on the city.
Although they may not spend a whole lot of time on the playground the next few months, the girls said they were glad to have a new one.
"It's good," Stewart's younger daughter Clover said between sips.
"Four-year-olds agree," her mother said. "It's good!"