1810 34th Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418
Recreation Center: Waite Recreation Center
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Major investments at Central Gym Park in 2018 were made possible with funding from the 20-Year Neighborhood Park Plan. This historic agreement between MPRB and the City of Minneapolis helps address racial and economic equity across 160 neighborhood parks and provides $11 million annually to maintain, repair and replace facilities.
Name: The park was named in 1949 for Edward Foote Waite, a Hennepin County juvenile court judge. Previously the land was referred to as the Cary-Cavell site, referring to the Edith Cavell School nearby. The 1949 annual report of the park board called Waite an “elder statesman” with a long and distinguished career “singularly marked by outstanding contributions to the understanding and guidance of youth.”
Acquisition and Development
In 1944 a survey of park and playground needs identified the rapidly growing northeast corner of the city as one that needed more park amenities. The nearest parks were Columbia Park to the west and Audubon Park to the southwest.
The solution to that shortage was found in cooperation between the park board and school board in the first joint development of a park and school from the ground up. The park board’s 1946 annual report noted that because the school board expected to establish a school at Ulysses and 34th Street Northeast, the park board had acquired land adjacent to the school site for a park. The $11,400 paid for the 8.3 acres at Waite Park came from $400,000 in bond funding from the city in 1946. (The majority of those funds were used to acquire Shingle Creek, which the city asked the park board to acquire so it could lower the bed of Shingle Creek and drain the surrounding area for housing development.)
The park board purchased the land by condemnation as part of the 14-acre site for the school and park in 1947. At a community-wide meeting in 1949 at Columbia Manor, the 300-plus attendees unanimously approved paying property assessments totaling $147,900 for the acquisition and development of the property.
Construction of the park began in 1949, but hit a snag shortly after when the nation entered the Korean War. In 1950 the National Production Authority prohibited construction of recreation and amusement projects in order to save material for the war effort. The ban included park construction. Park superintendent Charles Doell and Mayor Eric Hoyer rushed off to Washington to meet with federal officials to gain an exemption for Waite Park. The project they were most concerned about was the new Parade Stadium that was also under construction at the time. They returned home with exemptions for both projects because they had been started before the order was issued.
Waite School opened in September 1950, at which time most of the work on the park was completed, with the exception of building a small shelter and installing playground equipment. A $35,050 contract was awarded late in 1950 for the shelter building.
By the time Waite School opened, the park and school boards were cooperating on their second joint project at what became Armatage Park and Armatage School in south Minneapolis. The 1951 annual report of the park board noted that Waite School and Armatage School were the only two schools in the city named for living persons: Edward F. Waite and Maude D. Armatage.
The park board completed construction of the park in 1953 with the addition of hard-surfaced play areas and the seeding and sodding of lawns.
Attendance at Waite Park grew through the 1950s and early 1960s and in 1963 the park board for the first time began to offer after-school recreation programs at the park in addition to the traditional summer programs. Supervision and instruction were provided by University of Minnesota recreation students, as was done at six other neighborhood parks.
In 1977 the park board approved construction of a new 6,000-square-foot recreation center attached to the school and approved a lease agreement with the school board for joint use of the new space. Construction was completed in 1979.
The tennis courts in the park were replaced in 2008. Waite Park was the site of the city’s annual Arbor Day celebration in 2009. At that time 100 new trees were planted in the park. That year the park board also installed more energy-efficient internet-based thermostat controls in the rec center.
In 2015 a new wading pool opened.
History through 2008 written by David C. Smith, with updates from 2009 to present written by MPRB.