Final Push For Pappas Playground

by | Apr 30, 2014

The weather is warming and the activity is heating up at the Pappas Recreation Complex.  Baseball, softball and soccer are all under way for another season.  The summer concert series begins in just about six weeks.  And, hopefully, there will soon be a new playground to complement the athletic fields and performance venue at the Complex.

The Friends of the Pappas Recreation Complex is still raising money to build a playground at the Pappas Recreation Complex. A playground was part of the original site plans, but had to be eliminated when construction bids came in higher than expected.

The Friends group was formed in 2011 as a fund raising organization to restore other items that had to be cut from the original Pappas Recreation Complex plans including lights, artificial turf, picnic pavilion and dugouts. Their attention has now turned to raising the approximately $150,000 needed to build the playground.

Web Ad Banner

Drs. Arthur and Martha Pappas announced a challenge grant program, offering to match the Friends’ fundraising efforts up to $50,000 through March of 2014.  This deadline was recently extended to May 31.  The scramble is now on to raise enough money to receive the full challenge grant benefit.

The Friends has launched a campaign called “300 for $100” in hopes of raising awareness and action to get the fundraising wrapped up.  “If we can get 300 families, businesses, individuals and organizations to donate $100, that would push us past our fundraising goal of $50,000 to receive the full matching grant” said Committee member Jenny LaBonte.  “$30,000 just sounds like so much money.  We thought breaking it into smaller chunks made the goal feel more achievable” she added.

The “300 for $100” campaign slogan was chosen because the group felt it was kind of catchy.  Donations in any amount are welcomed and gratefully accepted.

Playground SloganLast fall, the Friends launched a “Slide to the Finish” campaign. The grass roots campaign is a reference to the popular playground mainstay as well as the fact that the playground is the last major element missing from the Complex.

The group has been submitting grant applications to area corporations and foundations that support youth, fitness and recreational projects.  They have also sold tee shirts during Concert in the Park series at the Pappas Recreation Complex Pavilion and other events.  Finally, the group is pushing this grass roots campaign to get Auburn residents and businesses involved in the project.  They also ran a Character Breakfast fundraiser last November that raised over $2,400.

To date, about $21,000 of the $50,000 goal has been achieved.   There is still a long way to go, and this opportunity will not likely present itself again.

“We really need to get this done now” said committee member Tony Benvenuti, “or the playground probably won’t happen.  Or it will be on a much, much smaller scale.”

The playground as currently designed includes climbing structures, slides, and obstacle courses.  It also features a poured rubber surface that will allow for a safer, longer lasting, more accessible playground.

“One of the things we want to do is to make this playground truly accessible to children of all physical abilities” said Friends president, Jeff LaBonte.  “This design goes well beyond the ADA compliance standards.  In fact we have almost three times the required accessible features” he adds.

The rubber surface will allow wheelchairs, strollers and other assistive mobility devices to traverse the playground more easily.  “Anyone who has tried to push a stroller across loose gravel or bark mulch knows the challenge.  Imagine trying to move a walker or wheelchair across those surfaces.” said LaBonte.

AuburnMA-PappasRecreation-642-63421C - 3D1

The playground project has been granted approvals from both the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission.  It will be located to the left of the Riley-Pappas Pavilion, with access across from the concession stand.  “The only thing left standing in our way is raising the money” says Jenny LaBonte.  “We really hope people will step up and make this a reality.”

Anyone with children who play or practice at the Pappas Recreation Complex can understand the importance of having the playground constructed.  “Right now, there isn’t any good, centrally located place for kids to play while waiting for siblings, between games, even during the summer concerts.” says LaBonte.   “The playground will also make Pappas more of a destination spot, much like Rocketland is today, but with more modern amenities and in a more central location.” he adds.

All donors of $100 or more will be recognized on a plaque to be mounted near the playground entrance, similar to the one at the Lemnasky Park playground (Rocketland).  Donors of $250 or more will receive additional recognition.

The Friends are pushing hard to realize the full goal of $150,000.  “We’d really hate to cut back” says LaBonte.”  “We have this blank slate, a premier recreation facility and a once in a lifetime opportunity.  We worked hard to get all the approvals.  I really hope the Auburn community will take advantage.  This is something that will benefit the town for many, many years to come. ”

To donate, you can make a check out to ‘Friends of the Pappas Recreation Complex’ and mail to:

Friends of Pappas Recreation Complex203 Pakachoag St.Auburn, MA 01501

You can also visit the website and donate online by credit card at