“Why won’t someone do something?”
Ivanhoe neighborhood in central Kansas City is where Chris Harris grew up in the 1970s, and after leaving for college on a basketball scholarship the neighborhood that he called ‘home’ had become a blighted, littered, overgrown problem that no one seemed to care about. Chris Harris believed in his community the children who grew up there, and their future “When kids see blight every day where they live, they come to believe this is how things are, and it’s who THEY are.” Chris stated. A college project became the basis for a vision to transform a community.
Chris Harris’ vision of using sports as an introduction to teach life skills, respect for one’s surroundings, and the value of education was the response the community needed. The journey began in 1998 and 1999 with Chris purchasing the properties across from his childhood home, and the land acquisition did not end until Chris had purchased an entire city block (4 acres). Starting out with nothing but a used chainsaw Chris cleared the land with a purpose. The first development was to install a regulation-sized basketball court with professional backboards and rims. The initial success moved Chris to install a volleyball court and a horseshoe pitch to meet the needs of all the youth using the space and the older residents of the Ivanhoe community. Changes to the Ivanhoe neighborhood were visible for the residents and the city of Kansas City to recognize at this point but the redevelopment was far from complete. Chris understood that the greenspace of a golf course provides a sense of luxury to housing surrounding it, and visually a golf course creates a sense of serenity. Chris led the design, site improvements, and installation of a 2-hole golf facility with 6 separate tee boxes and a 7,000sqft putting green at Harris Park. The transformation at 40th & Wayne in Central Kansas City was epic as the Ivanhoe neighborhood no longer was a community with no future.
Today Harris Park is the product of the vision Chris Harris planned decades ago to rebuild his community. The first youths who began coming to the park to play basketball have gone on to achieve college admission via scholarships while a new generation of youth are coming to learn the game of golf through the First Tee Chapter based out of the clubhouse onsite. Adults come to Harris Park to enjoy themselves by attending yoga classes or the outdoor space that was once difficult to even view. Country Club teams from all over the Kansas City metro area participate in an annual tournament at Harris Park raising money for programs to benefit youth using the park. The Grassroots Grant Harris Park received was injected into operations for maintenance and salaries of program staff. Chris Harris is still not done transforming his community. His next step is to redevelop housing in the Ivanhoe community by acquiring lots and building multi-family units that encourage home ownership and rental income for long-term financial stability. The drive to 40th Street and Wayne Street in Kansas City leads everyone to a community that has been revived all because of the vision of one man, Chris Harris and introducing a golf course to an inner-city landscape. To maintain and continue an urban revival in Kansas City donate to Harris Park at www.harrissportskc.org/donations/.