Olympian’s Field of Dreams in Fremont: Kristi Yamaguchi Envisions New Playground in Fremont Hometown


DREAM COMING TRUE — Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi addresses the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony at the future Always Dream PlayPark last May in Fremont’s Central Park. photo courtesy of Always Dream Foundation

FREMONT, Calif. — Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi’s longtime dream of a playground where children with and without disabilities can play freely together is getting closer to reality.

Construction began this summer on the Always Dream PlayPark, located at Central Park in Fremont. It is scheduled to open in early December.

“Seeing that construction is well under way, it’s a thrill to see my vision taking shape,” Yamaguchi said via e-mail. “But the real reward will come when we hear the laughter and see the smiling faces of the kids on the playground.”

Her Always Dream Foundation has been busy working to raise money to fund the construction of the one-acre playground, located in her hometown. The Olympian presented a dinner and ballroom dancing event — “Dancing the Night Away” — in May to help fund the park.

The skater’s sister, Lori Yamaguchi, a member of the foundation’s board of the directors, said the park is a dream come true.

“This project has been three years in the making from concept to completion, so Kristi and the Always Dream Foundation are thrilled to see this very important project coming to fruition,” Lori Yamaguchi said via e-mail.

Lori Yamaguchi said that her sister’s goal was to create a playground that would accommodate all children, including those with special needs.

“The playground will be a wonderful gathering place for the entire community to enjoy, promoting a sense of inclusion for all children,” Lori Yamguchi said.

Land for the playground was dedicated in October 2007 by the foundation and Fremont officials. The city gave the foundation the land for the playground, which is scheduled to open near the soccer and softball fields near Stevenson Boulevard. Construction of the playground is being provided on a pro bono basis by Swinerton Builders.

The reported $850,000 playground grew out of a foundation program held in Hawai‘i, according to Lori Yamaguchi.

“The inspiration for the playground came from a very special summer camp program in Hawai‘i that the Always Dream Foundation helped develop,” said Lori Yamaguchi. “We realized that so many children don’t have many places to play that accommodate their different needs. It is our hope that this park will promote inclusiveness and all children will enjoy what it has to offer.”

The foundation selected a firm specializing in equipment designs for children with disabilities, Berkeley-based design and planning firm Moore, Iacofano & Goltsman.

Tod Hara, senior landscape architect, said that the firm, which has donated time to the project, worked with both the foundation and the city to come up with the design.

“We’re trying to integrate fun features,” Hara said. “There’s a lot of geometry.”

Lori Yamaguchi added, “The park is designed to embrace the needs of all children, including those with a range of physical, developmental and sensory disabilities.”

The playground will include an array of structures designed to be wheelchair-accessible, including a slide with a ramp, a merry-go-round, swings and a sandbox area with access to water. A set of steel drums will allow deaf children to feel the vibrations.

Other features will include rubber-covered mounds that children can climb and sit on. There will also be a terraced seating area similar to a mini amphitheater.

Hara said that he has seen Kristi Yamaguchi’s mother, Carole Yamaguchi, at the playground overseeing the work.

“I’ve seen her a few times, watching over it for Kristi,” Hara said, adding that the playground will include some images of her skating.

Lori Yamguchi said that the foundation is still in the process of raising capital to pay for the park.

For more information about the Always Dream PlayPark or Kristi Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation, contact Jim Adler, chief operating officer of the foundation, at (510) 451-7275.

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