Kennedy Park was originally created by the Calumet Park District, one of 22 independent park commissions that were eventually consolidated into the Chicago Park District. The park was named for Dennis J. Kennedy, a member of the Calumet Park District Commission who served from 1910 to his death in 1932. The Chicago Park District took over Kennedy Park in 1934.
Originally a dump site with one baseball field, the Calumet Park District Commission added a bathhouse, swimming pool and a bird sanctuary in the back. In 1930, the Calumet Park District cleared the dump, graded the land, added trees and shrubbery and built a fieldhouse.
Located on the southwest side of the city, as the area population rose, so did demand for increased recreational facilities following World War II. The Chicago Park District met those needs by building a new fieldhouse, pool and expanding the number of softball fields to five. Since then, Kennedy Park has been host to a Tuesday-Thursday Men’s 16” Softball League that dates back more than 65 years. Women’s leagues followed in the 1970’s, and Sundays saw the start of a Men’s twenty-one years and younger league with additional Men’s leagues. There were several years in which Kennedy Park was host to 40 teams utilizing all five diamonds every day of the week throughout the summer.
In the 70’s Kennedy Park was home to one of the most competitive Sunday leagues in the city, featuring teams like the Bobcats, Strikers, Loafers, Whips and a few local teams including the Old-timers. Some of Chicagoland’s top teams began in 1985, This tournament has a Men’s and Women’s division and combined, attracts twenty-five to thirty teams each year. The players in this tournament include both Hall of Famers and local neighborhood players and teams.
Since 2012, Kennedy Park has also hosted the popular Keepin’ On for KFK 16” Softball Tournament. It is held in memory of Kevin Kennelly, a local resident whose life was tragically cut short in 2011 at the age of 17 years. The tournament hosts over forty teams between the Men’s and the Women’s divisions. Participants range in age from 13 to 64 years. The tournament raises money for scholarships to be given to local eighth grade students, who will attend Mount Carmel High School where Kevin Kennelly was a student.
The newest tournament currently held at Kennedy Park is the Papa Hops Tournament. The tournament is run by the Tom Hopkins Memorial Foundation in honor of Tom Hopkins, a local resident who passed away from cancer, and was a great supporter of youth athletics and Kennedy Park Softball. The Foundation aims to keep Tom’s spirit alive by helping families affected by cancer and supporting local youth athletics. The Friday night tournament started with 16 teams in 2014 and has grown to 32 teams in 2018, with a waiting list. Championship teams include Yahtzee, Mint, Jug Offs and Ignition which all currently play in the Kennedy Park Men’s league.
In Chicago’s history of 16” softball, Kennedy Park is certainly one of the locations that have contributed to the sport’s growth and popularity. It continues to honor its tradition of community competition and player development.
and players participated in the leagues. Many players and teams from the Kennedy Park leagues, both the Men’s and Women’s, have gone on to play major and national 16” softball, and have been inducted or honored by the Chicago 16” Softball Hall of Fame.
In addition to the regular leagues Kennedy Park is the host for some great 16” softball tournaments. The longest running tournament currently held at Kennedy Park is The Best of Western Tournament which