The nearly nineteen acres for Armatage Park were purchased September 1, 1948 for $7,500. The land was planned from the outset as a combined development of a park and school following a joint resolution by the park board and school board to develop new park and school complexes together. The primary objective of those joint developments was to provide a park that would double as a playground for the school and a school gym that could be used by the park board when school was not in session. It was the second park and school—Waite Park was the first—developed together by the two boards.
Joint development of the property had been considered as early as 1926, when that section of Minneapolis was annexed from Richfield. With the annexation, both the park board and school board faced the challenge of providing facilities for the newest section of the city. In 1927, land in the neighborhood had been proposed for development as a park, but property owners in the area opposed the additional tax assessments that would have been needed to pay for the development. With the advent of the Great Depression, followed by World War II, the project was delayed until the late 1940s. When the park and school were finally built in 1952, they were paid for by assessments on property in the neighborhood.
The purchase price of the property paled in comparison to the cost of developing the land for a park and athletic fields. Leveling and grading the property and preparing playing fields cost about $400,000. Because the western border of the park was significantly lower in elevation than Penn Avenue on the east, a lot of earth had to be moved to create level fields.
The original park improvements, completed in 1954, included regional athletic fields, a wading pool, a battery of tennis courts and a warming house and shelter. In 1955 the final touches were put on the park with the blacktopping of a parking lot and the installation of five sections of ten-tier bleachers for the regional athletic fields.
Armatage Park’s shelter was enlarged in 1962-63 and replaced with a new recreation center in 1977. The baseball and softball fields at the park were rebuilt in 1979. Significant renovations to the park property began in 1997 with the addition of a new parking lot and a new gym attached to the school and recreation center. The new gym opened in 1999.
In 2000 Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) funds were used to commission an eighteen foot-high bronze sculpture by artist Scott Wallace, called “Garden Party,” which was placed in the park. Additional improvements to the playing fields and tennis courts were made in 2004 and a skate park was added. The skate park was one of four created in Minneapolis parks that year.
An irrigation system was added to the baseball/soccer fields at Armatage as part of a playing field upgrade in 2010-11. The hard courts at the park were also resurfaced in 2011.
Park history compiled and written by David C. Smith.