1626 Queen Ave. N
Minneapolis, MN 55410
10 am-9 pm daily
May 27 through late August
Pools remain open until 10 pm if it is 85' at 6 pm.
Nearby Recreation Center: North Commons Recreation Center
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Wading Pool is a splash pool.
See what's currently in the works for this park. Some projects may be under the name of the regional park or service area it lives within. View Current Projects
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 for Willard School which was adjacent to the park. The school, built in 1910, was named for Frances Willard, an American author, educator and reformer. Willard was most famous for her fights to prohibit the sale of liquor, as the president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and to obtain for women the right to vote. She was also at one time the dean of women at Northwestern University. The name of the park was formally adopted by the park board on July 2, 1975.
Acquisition and Development
The park board’s first involvement with the property was in 1968 when the board installed a “totlot,” a playground for small children, on school property. It was one of ten totlots installed that year in neighborhoods in near-north and south-central Minneapolis.
In 1970 the park board applied for matching grants from a “Parks in the Cities” program from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to acquire the half-block of land north of Willard School for development as a park. The grant was approved, (along with similar grants for Whittier Park and Mueller Park) and the land was acquired in 1973. Additional funding was obtained from a National Park Service program for urban parks.
Final approval for the land acquisition was obtained in 1974 and financing was approved by the city council and Board of Estimate and Taxation for improvements to the land. The cost of the improvements, including play equipment, a wading pool and a toilet building, was split by a joint powers agreement between the park board and school board. The facilities were used as a recess playground for the school. The park board’s share of the cost was about $140,000. Park construction began in 1975 and the final landscaping was completed in 1977.
In 2002 the entire park was renovated, the toilet building was remodeled and a new splash pool was installed.
Willard School closed in 2005.
Park history compiled and written by David C. Smith.