LONGWOOD, Fla. — Less than 24 hours before, Orlando Magic small forward Franz Wagner was hopping on a plane and leaving Europe, where he played with Team Germany all summer.
“Not too bad,” Wagner said. “Got a good night’s sleep and came yesterday.”
There was time for jet lag when you returned to the magical world of Candyland, the renovated park in Longwood. The Orlando Magic, NBA Top Shot and Project Backboard all played a part in making this vision come to life.
What You Need To Know
- Candyland Sports Complex received upgrades as part of renovations to the Longwood park
- The Orlando Magic, NBA Top Shot and Project Backboard helped make the changes possible
- Colorful designs and board game patterns line the appropriately named park
- The basketball courts were improved, and pickleball and futsal courts were added
“It’s huge because in our community we say it starts with the parks,” Longwood Mayor Matt Morgan said. “It’s not a corny cliche or a hashtag or a tagline. We really believe it and have proven it with this park.”
Project Backboard artist Hannah Hunter, who painted the basketball court, said, “It’s amazing, it gives me chills. It’s so beautiful to see everybody out here playing, coming together, getting healthy and staying active. It’s really awesome.”
As a basketball player herself, it meant even more to be part of bringing the court in her backyard to life.
“Basketball and art are definitely my two loves and definitely the areas where I can exist the best as myself,” Hunter said. “So I’m definitely grateful to combine all of that together into one thing.”
The city of Longwood got funding through grants, and the Magic pushed them over the hump.
Since the mayor’s life has been intertwined with sports, the push for an upgrade to Candyland Park was even greater.
“Everyone only knows me as a former wrestler…yadda yadda yadda,” Morgan said. “I played Division I basketball, was very passionate about it. Forget the skills — the life lessons you learn through sports is something I’ll always find very important for our youth.”
The Candyland Sports Complex renovations also added pickleball and futsal courts. Basketball courts remain the star, as colorful designs and board game patterns line the appropriately named park, named after the board game Candy Land.
“Back home in Europe there’s not many courts like this, at least not where I play,” Wagner said. “There’s a lot more soccer and stuff like that. Having this opportunity to go outside and have a court that has everything that you need is important.”
The board game theme serves as a reminder to everyone about the joys of basketball.
“Also not forgetting the fun of it,” Wagner said. “I think just going outside and playing with my friends, that’s how I fell in love with the game.”
“This design is obviously the great childhood game we all played growing up,” Morgan said. “Though I’d argue I’m more of a Chutes and Ladders guy. But Candy Land….everybody’s played Candy Land, right? Going as far as pairing something that fits our youth, that’s a fun, safe space and everybody’s welcome. I don’t care what shape, size, make or model child you are, you are more than welcome to come out here at beautiful Candyland Sports Complex. We want you to come.”