Apr 24

Mayor Kenney and City Officials Celebrate Ribbon Cutting at Frank S. Nelson, Jr. Memorial Recreation Center and Playground  

Mayor Kenney and City Officials Celebrate Ribbon Cutting at Frank S. Nelson, Jr. Memorial Recreation Center and Playground  


Rebuild and the City invested over $2M into the West Kensington site to provide more programming space for recreational activities and an improved playground 


PHILADELPHIA (November 1, 2022) – Today, Mayor Kenney, City officials and community members celebrated the official re-opening of the newly renovated Frank S. Nelson, Jr. Memorial Recreation Center. The improvements to the recreation center were made possible by the city’s Rebuild program, Philadelphia’s historic investment in public spaces.       


With more than $2.4 million in investments by the City of Philadelphia, including $1.8 million from Rebuild, the fully renovated recreation building now provides more programming and recreational space for the West Kensington community. The site boasts two new murals unveiled today. Nelson’s playground and basketball courts were upgraded in partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Council District . 


“The energy in our city is electric right now and today’s ribbon cutting fuels even more excitement,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.  “The newly improved rec center is a dynamic, accessible hub for children, families, and residents to play and gather. The interior and exterior upgrades make room for new opportunities and connections, and the new murals reflect the vibrancy of Philadelphia. My administration and I are looking forward to seeing the memories that will be made in this space.”  


Totaling over $2.4 million in investment, the site improvements updates include: 


  • A new playground  
  • A renovated sprayground  
  • New site furnishings 
  • ADA ramps  
  • Upgrades to the existing basketball court 
  • An administration office 
  • Fully equipped computer lab 
  • Multi-purpose space 
  • Murals by Mural Arts 
  • Factors of design, durability, accessibility, and sustainability 
  • New restroom  
  • New roof  
  • Upgraded security cameras and alarm system 


“Rebuild is proud of our partnership at Nelson Recreation Center,” said Kira Strong, Executive Director of Rebuild. “Through the combination of City and Rebuild funding, we were able to deliver on the Rebuild promise to engage the community meaningfully to understand their vision and invest intentionally to deliver a quality resource in their neighborhood.” 


A shining example of community collaboration, Betsy Casanas’s new mural brings together important moments and key community figures in the history of Nelson Recreation Center. The mural features images from basketball tournaments and cookouts, as well as, the playground’s famous catchphrase: “We Play Ball Here.” 


Born and raised in Haiti, artist Frito Bastien created his second Haitian landscape at Nelson Recreation Center after upgrades to the park included the resurfacing of the original wall. The new mural features cascading waterfalls, butternut trees, banana trees, apple trees, and a boy fishing. The landscape is inspired by Bastien’s memory and imagination. It also represents flora and fauna from all seasons.  


“It is always a pleasure to work with Rebuild and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to renovate recreation centers around the City of Philadelphia,” said Jane Golden, Executive Director, Mural Arts Philadelphia. “The new mural, by artist Betsy Casanas, brings beauty to the Nelson Recreation Center while memorializing its history, brightening a community gem in West Kensington.” 


“We are so pleased to welcome residents back to a new, much improved Nelson Recreation Center,” said Kathryn Ott Lovell, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commissioner. “Thanks to Rebuild and the incredible work of our own capital projects team, we are delivering the high-quality facilities our neighbors deserve. The investment in this West Kensington hub will allow our Parks & Rec programs to thrive and increase our ability to positively impact the families who live here.” 




Rebuild is a historic investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in neighborhood parks, recreation centers and libraries across Philadelphia. Proposed in Mayor Jim Kenney’s first budget as a part of his vision for a more equitable Philadelphia, Rebuild’s promise to acknowledge history, engage the community and invest intentionally seeks to uplift pivotal community spaces, empower neighborhoods, and promote economic opportunity through diversity and inclusion. 

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) advances the prosperity of the city and the progress of its people through stewardship of nearly 10,200 acres of public land and waterways, and management of 500 recreation buildings, 166 miles of trail, and 250 playgrounds. PPR offers safe, enjoyable recreation, environmental and cultural programs and events throughout Philadelphia’s parks and recreation system. PPR promotes the well-being and growth of the city’s residents by connecting them to the natural world, to each other and to fun, physical and social opportunities. In 2017, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, set about implementing the park system’s first strategic plan: Our Path to 2020 and Beyond. As a result, PPR is undertaking a period of historic change, setting the department on a course to become a modern, equitable and exceptional parks and recreation system. Visit us at www.phila.gov/parksandrec, and follow @philaparkandrec on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. 

 Mural Arts Philadelphia is the nation’s largest public art program, dedicated to the belief that art ignites change. For over 35 years, Mural Arts have united artists and communities through a collaborative and equitable process, creating over 4,000 artworks that have transformed public spaces and individual lives. Mural Arts aims to empower people, stimulate dialogue, and build bridges to mutual understanding through projects that attract artists from Philadelphia and around the world and programs that focus on youth education, restorative justice, mental health and wellness, and public arts preservation. Popular mural tours offer a firsthand glimpse into the inspiring stories behind Mural Arts’ iconic and unparalleled collection, which has earned Philadelphia worldwide recognition as the “Mural Capital of the World.” For more information, call 215-685-0750 or visit muralarts.org. Follow us on social media: @muralarts on Twitter and Instagram, MuralArtsPhiladelphia on Facebook, and phillymuralarts on YouTube. 

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