The City in a Garden

A Photographic History of Chicago's Parks

Rise of Active Recreation: 1960-1970s

rise-of-active-recreationDuring the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy's administration initiated a national physical fitness campaign, and as Americans became increasingly concerned with athletics the CPD placed greater emphasis on recreational programs. In 1964, nearly 3 million people used Park District pools and 14,000 children participated in Learn-to-Swim programs. At that time, there were over 4,000 organized softball teams, 1,400 baseball teams, 1,500 basketball teams, and more than 600,000 people who played tennis in Chicago's parks. Two years later, annual attendance for the Park District's 104 day camps totaled more than 16,000 children.

By the late 1960s, programming for diverse populations became a growing concern. Senior citizens' programs were expanded. Cooperatively with other agencies, the Park District began providing programs for the physically and developmentally challenged, including blind children, persons with multiple sclerosis, paralysis, and other disabilities. In 1968, the CPD hosted the First International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field. Organized by the late president's sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, this program gained tremendous success, and now includes participants throughout 150 nations each year.

A major construction program during the early 1970s produced several new field houses and swimming pools and the McFetridge Sports Center with its regulation sized ice skating rink and indoor tennis courts. In 1972, the United States Olympic swimming trials were held in the reconstructed pool in Portage Park. Four years later, CPD replaced a huge surface parking lot in Grant Park with the Richard J. Daley Bicentennial Plaza. This facility incorporates underground parking with a major indoor and outdoor recreational complex.