KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Community organizers are hoping a proposal for an entertainment district in Kansas City's east side will help give residents a new sense of belonging.
Pat Clark presented the proposal, known as the Oak Park Entertainment District near Emanual Cleaver II Boulevard and Elmwood Avenue, on Tuesday to the city's Parks and Recreation Department Board.
His goal is to give teenagers something to do in their own neighborhood.
"Maybe if we create a place to go within the place they come from, we can work on longevity," Clarke said.
The parks department already owns the land, which butts up to the Oak Park Southeast and Vineyard neighborhoods.
Architectural design firm The Olsson Studio created the renderings showing ideas for an outdoor pavilion, indoor and outdoor pools, a game lawn, classrooms and meeting spaces, bowling, skating, zip lining, trails and more.
The area will be fenced off and people will only be able to access it from the front entrance.
Clarke told the board that when kids have access to positive outlets in their own neighborhoods, you'll see less violence.
The project would also make way for job opportunities.
"Wish it would have happened when I was a kid, but it's for the kids that need it now the most," Pat Clark's son, Danearle "Chiefy" Clarke, said Tuesday.
Chiefy says growing up in the inner city meant there wasn't much for he and his friends to do outside of playing sports. He said he at least had basketball but some kids don't play sports.
"We hung out on the Plaza," Chiefly said. "There wasn't anything to do down there but go to the movies. Just hundreds of people hanging out and that's all that's doing is causing ruckus."
Chiefy said when his friend went to other parks, they were in awe of the amenities that were absent in their neighborhoods.
"We used to often go play out in Johnson County to go play basketball and seeing these different parks and the things they had in their parks, we would die for, honestly," Chiefy said.
Clarke is working on funding now. The entertainment district could cost $25 million.
Clarke pointed out that out of the 56 homicides in KCMO so far in 2021, most of them are young, black men.
"We're spending a lot of time putting these kids in the ground or putting these kids in jail than we are trying to save their lives, so $24 million, I'm sure we can go out and get it," Clarke said.
The Parks and Rec board commissioners welcomed Clarke's ideas and indicated they support it, but they're uncertain how much they could chip in.
"People want to be able to stay in their neighborhoods, to be entertained, to do the things they want to do," board commissioner Scott Wagner said. "This is a great look and hopefully something that can actually happen."
Clarke says his idea, years in the making, is a solution to help turn the community around, to go from violence, to stability.
"We won't have this problem 20, 30 years from now," Clarke said. "Our kids won't start disappearing because another kid took their life."
The project is in the initial phases and Clarke hopes to meet with Parks and Rec again soon.