Shawnee Middle School campus is looking considerably different this year. Thanks to the Avedis Foundation, there are many new outdoor resources available — not only for students, but for the public, as well.

Shawnee Middle School campus is looking considerably different this year. Thanks to the Avedis Foundation, there are many new outdoor resources available — not only for students, but for the public, as well.

Tuesday evening ushered in the long-awaited grand opening of SMS Avedis Park on the school's grounds at 4300 N. Union Ave.

Avedis board members, the Shawnee Board of Education, middle schoolers and area residents celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked the official opening of newly-constructed spaces on campus.

State Sen. Ron Sharp opened with a few words before passing the microphone to Michelle Briggs, Avedis Foundation President and CEO, who said her board couldn't be prouder of the project.

“It was a dream, when we originally started talking about what we could do to enhance the wellness of all the children of Shawnee,” she said, “and we developed it slowly, over a period of time.”

She said she hopes there are tennis and basketball players, walkers and plays that take place there for years to come.

The site now boasts brand new tennis courts and basketball courts just south of the school, as well as walking trails and an amphitheater on the west side.

A $1.5 million Avedis grant helped the middle school with the many-faceted project — furnishing the school system and community with a nature learning center, walking trails, multi-purpose/tennis courts and sidewalks.

Briggs said the project is a fitting example of the vision of Avedis, which is to improve the health, wellness and quality of life for the people of Pottawatomie County.

“What a fun day for Shawnee Middle School and the Shawnee Community,” Briggs said.

The grand opening of the Avedis Park furthers Avedis' vision, she said.

“What better way to do it than to build multi-purpose courts, trails –– that are open not only to the public, but also to our children, and we feel one of our best strategic investments is education at any level,” she said.

Briggs said the Avedis board of directors is proud of the partnership with Shawnee Middle School and the City of Shawnee in developing this park with its walking trails, multi-purpose courts and amphitheater.

“If we can plant some seeds early in life for healthy bodies and healthy minds, then we are all for it,” she said.

The City of Shawnee helped with the project, as well.

It provided, at no charge, engineering, bidding, contracting, and construction management for the sidewalk portion of the project, which extended the public sidewalk from the school south to MacArthur Street — creating an uninterrupted sidewalk along Union Street for 2.25 miles.