Kids Kampus Vanishes

September 9, 2011 47 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

With the NFL football season quickly approaching, Metro Jacksonville visits the flex space formerly known as Kids Kampus at Metropolitan Park.

The History

The mission of the 10-acre Kids Kampus was "to cooperatively create a kid-sized, interactive, experiential town connecting facts, figures, and suggestions for real life use."  The groundbreaking ceremony for Kids Kampus was held March 8, 2000, with Mayor Delaney presiding over the event.  Popular with young families, Kids Kampus may have been one of Jacksonville's shortest-lived parks, open just 10 years.

The Makeover

It was once home to water slides and lazy rivers, but after a multimillion-dollar renovation, there's another change of scenery coming to Metro Park in the form of grass and trees.

Kids Kampus, the popular park at Metropolitan Park downtown, is no more. As a result, families will be in for a big surprise when they return this summer to the park, which has always been one of the more elaborate play areas in Jacksonville.

Renovations are currently under way, and that park is not coming back.

"What you see right now will be an open playfield for kids to do what they do best, which is use their imagination," said Paul Crawford, of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission.

Plans for the site include removing current structures and fences to improve river access and create a public lawn with flexible space for activities such as family gatherings, festivals, markets and athletic events.

Work will be performed from the western edge of the current Kids Kampus site to the eastern edge of the “Cowford Commons” space used for temporary parking during Jaguars home games and the Georgia-Florida Football Classic. Kids Kampus Splash Water Park, which closed earlier this year, will remain closed. This project will not impact day-to-day operations of the portion of Metropolitan Park utilized for concerts and events such as the World of Nations Celebration. Work is expected to be complete in spring 2011.

The redevelopment of Metropolitan Park comes as part of Mayor John Peyton's initiative, announced in January, to improve public spaces downtown. Because there are few public spaces in the urban core where visitors can enjoy direct access to the St. Johns River, and based on citizen input, the city is redeveloping portions of Metropolitan Park to create a more open and accessible public space. This project will not only capitalize on greater river access, but will also create a more user-friendly, inviting destination for the 2.5 million visitors annually that attend events in the sports and entertainment district.

The Results

Kids Kampus has now been transformed into a multi-million dollar field of flex space for special events and tailgate parties.  However, the elimination of Kids Kampus has created a void for child-friendly playscapes and public spaces within Downtown Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville Fire Museum anchors this new flex green space.  The Fire Museum and a few picnic shelters are all that remains of Kids Kampus.

The Catherine Street Fire Station (No. 3) opened 10 months after the Great Fire destroyed the original 1886 structure. Bricks salvaged from buildings destroyed during the fire were used to construct the north, south and west walls of the firehouse. Today, the station has been restored and lives on as the Jacksonville Fire Museum. Here, visitors can learn more about the Great Fire of 1901, as well as other local fire-related historic events, such as the 1963 Roosevelt Hotel Fire that ended up taking 22 lives during Gator Bowl weekend. Located in Kids Kampus at Metropolitan Park, the Jacksonville Fire Museum is open Monday through Friday, from 9am to 4pm.
Jacksonville Fire Museum:


The space formerly known as Kids Kampus is located just south of Everbank Field and west of Metropolitan Park.

Images by Ennis Davis.