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The Oval+ is a lesson in the power of parks and play

by Melissa Romero on August 15, 2018

The Oval+ is no longer just a pop-up park. After six years, it’s grown from The Oval to The Oval+, a summer oasis that transform Eakins Oval and extends down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

After opening for the season on July 20th, The Oval+ is entering its fourth and final week of festivities! Ahead of its last week, we’re taking a look at what has been The Oval+’s biggest season yet in this conversation with Hugh McStravick, PNC’s Vice President of Client and Community Relations about The Oval+ and the importance of partnerships and investing in civic spaces. PNC has supported The Oval+ from the very beginning as presenting sponsor.

Plus, we offer three ways to experience The Oval+ in its final week.

Walk, bike, or run on the Parkway

For first time ever in the history of The Oval+, a portion of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway has been closed to cars, offering pedestrians and cyclists a way to enjoy the Parkway free of vehicles. From 21st Street to Art Museum Drive, pedestrians have been able to enjoy The Canopy at the Barnes, as well as an garden bar at the Rodin Museum before making their way to Eakins Oval.

McStravick says The Oval+’s growth and expansions have been exciting to watch, and it is one of the reasons why PNC continues to support the pop-up park each year: “The idea of the pop-up park becoming a more of a permanent fixture over the years is part of why we’ve stayed involved,” he says. “A lot of people have used Eakins Oval as a navigational beacon, calling it ‘the parking lot in front of the art museum.’ But now when people talk about [Eakins] Oval+ year-round, they say, ‘Oh, where they do the pop-up park in the summer!’ It’s been interesting to see that change take place.”

Take play to the next level

The Oval+’s footprint hasn’t been the only thing that expanded this year–the play structures were bigger and better than ever before, from the 800-square-foot sandbox to the new Mr. Mister, ribbon garden, and pink seating structure that offered tremendous views of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and back toward Center City.

The ground mural, designed by the Heads of State in partnership with Mural Arts, is also the largest mural of its kind in the city, stretching 56,000 square feet.

It was a treat watching this year’s theme of More PARK, More PLAY come to life, says McStravick. “The highlights for us are when we see families enjoying the activities and children playing in the sandbox and running through the mister. It really makes you feel good about what a place can do to bring people together.”

Make your own art or dance to your own beat

Some of the feedback The Oval+ received last year was that people wanted to see more family-friendly activities. Along with even more play opportunities, many partners came out to offer new programming, from Silent Philly to The Village of Arts and Humanities, to the long list of Wellness Wednesday partners.

Says McStravick, “We’ve seen over time is that people and organizations come to the Conservancy and Parks & Recreation and are ask, ‘How do we get involved? How can my arts organization come out and do performances there or activities with the kids?’ And I think that is the ideal outcome: When you can find a way to bring the people and other community partners out to transform what was otherwise an ordinary, underutilized public space.”

Don’t miss the last week of The Oval+! Check out the full calendar of events taking place from Wednesday, August 15 to Sunday, August 19 at TheOvalPHL.org.