MEMPHIS, Tenn.– An enormous expansion of Rodney Baber Park in Frayser is underway, but a big part of this park’s facelift comes with rebuilding so it can withstand flooding.

In 2011, a catastrophic flood destroyed much of the park.

A few years later, the city of Memphis and county partnered to figure out a plan to rebuild the site, redesigning the space so it could still be utilized but take on floodwater from the nearby Wolf River.

In 2016, Shelby County received a $60 million federal grant as part of a nation-wide National Disaster Resilience Competition. The goal of the grant was to rebuild infrastructure and communities impacted by natural disasters. 

$7 million of the grant will go toward Rodney Baber park and the rest of the money will fund other projects near waterways in the county.

Rodney Baber’s new design calls for certain ground levels to be raised so when it floods the park remains–like as the name of the grant says–resilient.

“The floodwaters filled up the park and the main damage knocked out a lot of the infrastructure, primarily the lights on the fields,” said John Zeanah, the director of Memphis & Shelby Co. Division of Planning and Development. “So there will consistently be threats of flooding to this park but the new design allows the lower reaches of the park to be able to take on floodwater safely and protect many of the amenities in the upper part of the park.”

At the park’s groundbreaking, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland talked about those amenities.

The park will be larger, growing from 79 acres to 167 acres after the city and county purchased nearby land. There will also be two adult soccer fields, two youth soccer fields, a softball field, a park shelter, a playground, and a fishing pier and pond along with a walking trail and wetlands.

People living nearby like Shirley Cogbill and Dennis Treadwell believe these additions will be critical for families and teens. 

“The children do need things to do, I’m thinking that will really be a plus for the children,” Cogbill said.

“Give them something positive, I’m all for it,” Treadwell said. “Maybe it will help steer a couple of them in a different direction.”

The goal is for full construction to be completed by March 2023.