Five months after fire destroyed Winfield's Island Park Playground, crews are hard at work rebuilding the city's largest play area for children.
Signs of progress can be seen from the park road that encircles the 14,000 square foot playground. Crews have already erected a small pavilion. On Monday, the first posts for the new children's castle went into place.
Winfield City Parks Director Mark Olney gave KAKE News a small tour of the construction.
"Everything from the old playground, except for the entrance... was gone," Olney said. Three teenagers were arrested in connection with the Oct. 27 fire that destroyed the playground.
"We're sure hoping for a grand opening ceremony in May, before the summer starts," Olney said.
Insurance pays for $200,000 in repairs. Whatever else is needed is raised through donations.
The new playground will mirror its predecessor in many ways. But Olney says there are a few stark differences.
The entire playground will be made more accessible to children with special needs. It will also include more hands-on activities, such as a climbing boulder.
The flooring around the playground will be made of a solid rubber matting, sturdier and more resistant than the older flooring used in the previous play area. Olney says it will be soft but firm, and better suited for children in wheelchairs.
"My grandchildren used the playground all the time," says builder Vernon Goertz.
Goertz helped build the original Island Park Playground in 2004. He says he jumped at an opportunity to help again after last year's fire.
"It's amazing the number of people that started calling and offering to help after the fire," Goertz said.
Children who used to play on the playground are also excited. Eight-year-old Hailey Soukup can't wait to try out the new castle.
"My brother and I used to play hide and seek," Soukup said, adding that she misses the old playground.
Olney says the entrance built to the old playground survived the fire, along with the hand-prints and names of the many children who have played at the park over the years. The new playground will follow the layout of the old playground, and will incorporate the entrance just as it did before the fire.
Olney hopes to complete construction in the next six to eight weeks.