La Crosse breaks ground on All Abilities Park

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The run-down tennis courts and baseball field in Trane Park will soon be no more.

"This is not like any park I've ever done, and I've done a ton of parks in my career," said La Crosse Parks and Recreation Director Steve Carlyon.

Replacing all the existing equipment, a brand new $6 million All Abilities Park.

"I thought all parks were accessible and there wasn't an issue," said Carlyon. "But after listening to families and discussing what the situation really is, I knew that we weren't anywhere close to meeting that need."

The Trane Park project has been going on nearly the entire decade.

"For the parents that started this project it has been 7, 8 years. For myself and our crew and our executive board we've been going at it for about three and a half years," said Trane Park Project President Francis Formanek.

Tears flowed through the crowd during the groundbreaking Wednesday morning.

"It's so emotional for everybody that's been working on this. To see the smiling faces and the idea that this is really going to happen," said Formanek.

The 2.6 acre park will include a playground, but will also be used by Viterbo University, UW-La Crosse and the medical community.

"The hospitals, this will be an extension of their programs for parents and children that they work with. They'll be able to come to a place where the types of equipment that are necessary to develop better motor skills, or to socialize, or to integrate with other kids," said Carlyon.

The $6 million project would be the first of its kind in the region.

Officials say there are only 17 All Abilities Parks like the one that broke ground in La Crosse on Wednesday across the globe.

Right now the project has raised $3 million of the $6 million needed., with another potential $1 million that could go towards the park included in the proposed budget that will go before the Finance and Personnel Committee Thursday.

The current plan is to have the park open in the fall of 2019.