Explore the revamped Morrissey Park in Champaign
What you need to know about Morrissey Park in Champaign
By Emily Harrington
An old neighborhood favorite was taken down to the studs, and it has been rebuilt using updated equipment with modern features.
Amid an established neighborhood at 1209 Harrington Drive, you will find 19 acres of active area for adults and kids. In what seems like a lifetime ago, I lived in the apartments on the edge of the park. This was when it was just me, a fiancé and a puppy. We became familiar with the lengthy path while trying to dampen the endless energy of our Australian Shepherd. As a couple, we became familiar with the tennis courts while trying to shape our wedding bods.
Now, two kids and 10 years later, I see Morrissey in a different way. I view it through the lens of a parent. I see clumsy soccer games and sandy feet, exhausting bike practice and sloppy sledding down the bunny hill.
Morrissey Park sits on a large, square piece of land. Thanks to the Champaign Park District, the playground has been completely renovated, and the surrounding is equipped for just about every major sport. The features:
- a baseball field. Well, sort of. At one time this was a sanctioned field; now it’s more like “The Sandlot” movie. It would be great for hitting or pitching practice, for it’s basically a backstop and overgrown field.
- a .73-mile paved path. This is a great dog walking area. There are even complimentary poo bags by the trash cans! This path butts up against the playground, so you need to make sure to talk to your kids about dog safety. “Never pet a dog without asking!”
- a small hill for amateur sledding. A bunny hill sits near the playground. This hill is perfect for smaller sledders, or it’s good for getting height on your balls/kites.
- a soccer field. Pick-up games or structured sessions are held in a regulation soccer field off Plymouth Drive.
- mature trees. The land was obtained in 1965, so it’s been around the block. There are many large trees. These canopies provide beauty in the fall and shade in the summer.
- tennis courts. These courts have been resurfaced recently.
- sculptures. Take a look at the oversized works of art. These are on a rotation. You can’t miss the massive metal installations while driving down Windsor Road.
- seating. A new two-table pavilion and bench seating can be found along the playground area.
- unique playground pieces. The pieces are BRAND new. There are two main structures. Each one has a sunshade. They are positioned perfectly over the sun scorching slides. Morrissey has a modern merry-go-round. You can stand on the back, or you can sit traditionally. (If standing, make sure your kids are holding on tight. The momentum can make it hard to hold on. Sadly, my girlfriend’s kiddo broke his femur from this.) One or all riders can control the speed from a wheel in the middle. The large structure has a dueling slide, two traditional slides and horizontal cylinders for climbing — or climbing through. Metal pipes were curved and twisted providing bridges and multiple areas for climbing and navigating upward. Monkey bars lead to a small platform. The little area has dueling slides, a gear machine and an alphabet and number game with braille etched under each character. There’s an enlarged sandbox with lost trucks — just like Clark Park. Fresh mulch gives the park, albeit smaller, a clean, fresh look. There is also a bank of baby swings and traditional belt swings. Watch out for the closing latch on the modified swing. It can come down fast.
- water fountains.
Tips for Your Trip from Other Parents
- Potty before you come. There are no permanent restrooms.
- Be prepared for your kids to get in sand. There is a large, rectangular sandbox with very tempting toys. This means have a change of clothes, or you can just accept your car will get sandy.
- On two sides, Harrington Drive and Plymouth Drive, there is street parking. There is plenty of space. This park is never overcrowded. Just exercise good judgment when getting your kiddos in and out of the car. Also, park closest to your destination. Before de-vanning, get as close as you can to the park or soccer field.
Is this park good for toddlers?
Yes, there are two structures. The smaller structure would be appropriate for a preschooler (ages 2 to 5). The small structure has climbing bars, interactive games and slides. These all sit low to the ground. Nearby, there are baby swings.
The larger structure is rated for school kids (ages 5 to 12).
What amenities are offered?
Morrissey Park offers many amenities, including:
- One-stop-shop. There are so many different areas of activity here. So many opportunities to bat, bike, hit, kick or skate.
- Proximity to shopping. Yes, you’ll have to cross Windsor Road, but there are great shops and restaurants in the strip of shops like Bella Mia Boutique, Pandamonium and Sun Singer. You can easily get a cocktail, coffee or a snack. Depending on how the park went, you may need one or all.
- Sandbox with abandoned/donated/lost toys. It’s a real Toy Story situation here. There are lots of bulldozers, cars and trucks. Anything with wheels really. It’s nice to leave the sandy toys there when you leave. You don’t have to get any of your own toys gross. (In the pandemic of 2020, however, all concerns must be considered.)
How are the bathrooms?
There are no permanent restrooms.
Are there picnic tables and grills?
Yes! There are pavilions and picnic tables scattered throughout.
Is there any shade?
Yes! The park is pretty woody in some areas, and there are lots of mature trees. A pavilion and umbrellas over the equipment also provide shade.
When is this park open?
Dawn to dusk
What is parking like?
There is ample street parking. You will not have any trouble finding parking unless there is a big, structured soccer game.
If you’ve been to this park before, check out its new look. The playground renovation makes it a must visit!
Parent’s Guide to Colbert Park | Parent’s Guide to Hessel Park | Parent’s Guide to Henry Michael Park | Parent’s Guide to Carle Park | Parent’s Guide to West Side Park | Parent’s Guide to Meadowbrook Park | Parent’s Guide to Commissioners Park | Parent’s Guide to Crystal Lake Park
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie. She left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job in communications so that she could be a 24/7 mom to two busy boys. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Emily usually finds herself engulfed in balls, blue and belly laughs.