LONGWOOD, Fla. — Less than 24 hours earlier, Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner was catching a plane and leaving Europe, where he played with the German national team all summer.
“Not bad,” Wagner said. I had a good night’s sleep and arrived yesterday.”
There was time for jet lag as you returned to the magical world of CandyLand: the renovated park in :ongwood.
“It’s huge because in our community we say it starts with the parks,” said Longwood Mayor Matt Morgan. “It’s not a corny cliché or a hashtag or a slogan, we truly believe and prove it with this park.”
The Orlando Magic, NBA Top Shot and Project Backboard played an important role in bringing this vision to life.
“It’s amazing, it gives me the chills,” said Project Backboard artist Hannah Hunter, who painted the court. “It’s so beautiful to see everyone here playing, bonding, getting healthy and active. It’s really amazing.”
Hannah Hunter is the artist who brought the court to life right in her backyard. As a basketball player, this project meant even more to be a part of.
“Basketball and art are definitely my two loves and definitely the areas in which I can best exist as I do,” Hunter said. “So I’m definitely grateful for combining it all into one thing.”
The City of Longwood got funding through donations, with Magic pushing them upward. When the mayor’s life was intertwined with sports, the impetus for an upgrade to CandyLand Park was even greater.
“Everyone only knows me as an ex-wrestler yadda yadda yadda,” Morgan said. “I played first division basketball, I was very passionate about it. Forget the skills, the life lessons you learn through sport is something I will always find very important for our youth.”
Renovations to the CandyLand Sportsplex also added pickleball and futsal courts. Basketball courts remain the star, as colorful designs and board game patterns line the aptly named park, in honor of the Candy Land board game.
“In Europe, there aren’t many courts like this, at least not where I play there’s a lot more football and stuff like that,” Wagner said. “Having this opportunity to go out and have a court that has everything 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 hanging out and playing with my friends is how I fell in love with the game.”
“This design is obviously the great childhood game we all played growing up,” Morgan said. “Although I would argue that I’m more of a Chutes and Ladders guy. But CandyLand. Everyone has played CandyLand, right? Going to the point of combining something that suits our youth, this is a fun safe space and everyone is well- I don’t care what shape, size, brand or child model you are, you are more than welcome to come here at the beautiful CandyLand Sports Complex, we want you to come.”