In 2013, the Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation transformed Eakins Oval – eight acres of public space at the base of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway – into The Oval, the new ‘Park on the Parkway’ with programming and activities for people of all ages.
Situated among some of the most visited cultural institutions in Philadelphia, Eakins Oval had long been underused considering its prominent place along the bustling Parkway. Before its transformation into The Oval, Eakins Oval functioned primarily as a surface parking lot and offered no amenities and little use for the people living near the space. The Oval replaced a dead zone along the bustling parkway with a thriving pedestrian environment in which residents and visitors can engage meaningfully in arts and culture, and a place for the often-overlooked communities adjacent to the parkway’s cultural institutions to gather and enjoy park amenities.
In its start-up season, programming at The OVAL ran 12 hours per day, Tuesday through Sunday, in July and August 2013, with movie nights, live music, award-winning food trucks, yoga, bike classes, and more, bringing over 27,000 residents and visitors into Philadelphia’s newest park over six weeks.
In 2014, The OVAL returned to the Parkway with pop-up weekends in April, May and June, and with a full 6 week season of programming from Wednesday-Sunday between July and August. Pop-up weekends also followed in October, when a Ferris wheel was offered at The Oval for the first time. In 2014 we had 60,000 visitors who enjoyed daily programming, beer garden, free activities and games, arts and cultural programming, live music, movie nights and more. PNC was the presenting sponsor and BMW of the Main Line, Mini of the Main Line, Greater Media Inc, Ride the Ducks, Godshall’s Quality Meats and Commonwealth Connections Academy provided additional support.
In spring of 2015, The OVAL hosted Future Sensations, a brilliant immersive exhibition featuring five “ephemeral pavilions.” Philadelphia was one of just four cities around the world and the only U.S. city to host this futuristic traveling exhibit, which celebrated the 350th anniversary of Philadelphia-based Saint-Gobain. For one week, Saint-Gobain’s Future Sensations took over The OVAL with a free exhibition of five huge walk-through pavilions that gave visitors a 3-D digital experience merging 21st-century technology with storytelling and visual arts.
The 2015 summer season brought a record number of OVAL visitors, with 70,000 attendees between July 16 and August 23. The OVAL offered Wellness Wednesdays, Arts & Culture Thursdays, Food & Flick Fridays, Game Day Saturdays and Family Fun Sundays, attracting a wide range of Philadelphians and visitors over the course of its six week summer season. PNC was the presenting sponsor and Saint-Gobain, BMW of the Main Line, Mini of the Main Line, Aimco/Park Towne Place, Cabot Creamery, Commonwealth Connections Academy and Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association provided additional support.
In 2016 The Oval returned for its fourth season between July 15 and August 21, 2016. With a continuation of Wellness Wednesdays, Arts & Culture Thursdays, Food & Flick Fridays, Game Day Saturdays and Family Fun Sundays plus an even greater selection of free programming focused on healthy lifestyles and arts and cultural activities for all ages, summer of 2016 was a great success! PNC was the presenting sponsor and Warby Parker, Aimco/Park Towne Place, Commonwealth Charter Academy and Greater Media Inc provided additional support.
The Oval is coming back in 2017 from July 20-August 20 as The Oval+ with an expanded footprint and unique installations in addition to the ever-popular movie and music nights, beer garden and family friendly activities. Inspiration for the design came from a 2013 study performed by PennPraxis recommending “more park, less way” along this important thoroughfare. Summer 2017 at The Oval+ is presented by PNC and supported by funding from ArtPlace America. View renderings from PORT Urbanism here and the full press release about The Oval+ here. Read our blog post here.
For the latest details visit The Oval+’s website.