Today's modern recreation center looks very little like Como Avenue Playground, the first area specifically dedicated to many recreation center goals. The six acre playground was established in 1903 at the corner of Thomas and Marion Streets, bordering Como Boulevard. An estimated 26,000 children played there in its first year, often interrupting their play as stray horses and cows wandered through the area.
A shelter was added in 1904. Arlington, Palace, Lafayette, Langford Park, Margaret, and Colorado Playgrounds opened soon after. Palace and Margaret became the first year-round community center sites in 1916. By 1920, the playgrounds drew over a million people annually, many of whom came for the showers offered there.