Morgan’s Wonderland, San Antonio, Texas, will construct the ultra-accessible Morgan’s Wonderland Sports, a $3 million complex that will offer fitness and competition for athletes with different abilities.
The three-acre facility, situated on land leased from the North East Independent School District (NEISD) on Thousand Oaks Drive across from Toyota Field, will mirror the mission of inclusion that drives unique Morgan’s Wonderland theme park and Morgan’s Inspiration Island splash park.
“We’re all about bringing together those with and without special needs in safe, colourful, non-judgmental, barrier-free environments where the common denominator of play leads to acceptance and understanding,” said Gordon Hartman, co-founder of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, which spearheaded the parks’ creation.
Morgan’s Wonderland Sports will provide 8,000 square feet (743 sq m) of covered space for wheelchair sports – basketball, softball, baseball, football, soccer, pickleball (12 courts) and tennis (six courts). Two acres of concrete playing surface will be tinted to minimise heat from the sun and striped in accordance with regulation dimensions for the various sports. Hartman said one of the most-critical aspects of the project will be use of laser technology to pour 2,000 cubic yards (1,629 cu m) of concrete and ensure the playing surface will be completely level. Weather permitting, Morgan’s Wonderland Sports will be ready for play in early 2020.
Support facilities will include special LED lighting for visually-impaired athletes, wheelchair-accessible restrooms, numerous water fountains, offices and sports fencing for tennis, pickleball and other sports to keep balls in play.
“Development of Morgan’s Wonderland Sports has followed the successful pattern utilised for Morgan’s Wonderland, Morgan’s Inspiration Island and recently-announced Morgan’s Wonderland Camp,” Hartman added. “My 26-year-old daughter with special needs, Morgan, provided the inspiration, and a team of dedicated individuals who’ve worked closely with the special-needs community brainstormed what a completely-accessible sports centre would encompass.”
Hartman expressed gratitude to the NEISD Board of Trustees including Dr. Sean Maika, superintendent, Dr. Brian Gottardy, former superintendent, and NEISD staff for their cooperation and enthusiasm in the evolution of Morgan’s Wonderland Sports. The result is a 25-year lease on the land for Morgan’s Wonderland Sports, he said.
“We appreciate Gordon Hartman’s passion and commitment to bring those with and without special needs together in an inclusive environment,” Dr. Maika said. “We’re pleased that we could partner with him on his latest project. This facility will be enjoyed by the students of NEISD and surrounding communities for years to come.”
Morgan’s Wonderland Sports also will accrue to the benefit of Special Olympics Texas’ Summer Games, which Morgan’s Wonderland hosted in May for athletes from all over the state and plans to do so again in 2020, Hartman said. And the new complex will significantly expand the STRAPS (South Texas Regional Adaptive and Para Sports) program that Morgan’s Wonderland unveiled in 2012.
“STRAPS has been a great success, currently involving several hundred athletes in a dozen sports, and its growth now requires a more-spacious venue,” Hartman said. “For example, we’ve had to play wheelchair softball in our parking lot, but Morgan’s Wonderland Sports will give us plenty of room for multiple sports.”
Brooke Matula, Morgan’s Wonderland recreation therapy director who heads STRAPS, said STRAPS athletes routinely compete in tournaments across the state and nation. Morgan’s Wonderland Sports will greatly expand opportunities to host more competitions and to attract more visitors to San Antonio.
Non-profit Morgan’s Wonderland, which is completely wheelchair-accessible, features more than 25 attractions including rides, playscapes and gardens. It recently qualified for TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame. Next-door Morgan’s Inspiration Island offers lots of get-wet fun in the summer sun, thanks to sprays, geysers, dumping buckets and the like. The splash park last year earned a spot on Time Magazine’s list of 100 World’s Greatest Places.
Recently-announced Morgan’s Wonderland Camp, now under construction, will provide a summer-camp-like experience for approximately 500 campers with and without special needs at a time in a rustic, Hill Country setting on San Antonio’s northern outskirts.