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Rob Gronkowski returns to Boston, donates $1.2 million for playground renovation

Former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski signs a ceremonial check for $1.2 million, held by Governor Charlie Baker, for the renovation of the Charlesbank Playground.
Former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski signs a ceremonial check for $1.2 million, held by Governor Charlie Baker, for the renovation of the Charlesbank Playground.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was back in town Friday afternoon.

Gronkowski, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after nine years in New England, was on hand at the Charlesbank Playground to present a special donation. Along with his Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, Gronkowski has gifted $1.2 million to demolish, re-design, and rebuild the oldest of the three playgrounds along the Charles River Esplanade.

“No matter where I go and where I live, I will always have a special connection to New England and the people who live here,” Gronkowski said.

Accompanying Gronkowski for his announcement was his oldest brother Gordie and adorable French bulldog puppy Ralphie.

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“Ralphie’s a cutie,” Gronkowski said. “He’ll be on the playground. I’ll be on the playground, too.”

After coming up with this idea almost two years ago, Gronkowski researched several possibilities in the Massachusetts area before deciding on the spot he selected.

“It’s the perfect location because it’s where the duck boats come in and out of the Charles River,” he said, with a smile. “And you know I love duck boats. Who knows? Maybe we might have a duck boat in the playground, too. I don’t see why not.”

Gronkowski said his goal is to motivate kids to get fit and have fun. He will have a role in designing the playscape, with a focus on modernized and accessible equipment.

The finished product is expected to be unveiled in 2022.

State Senator Sal DiDomenico and state Representative Jay Livingstone shared Friday that they’ve filed legislation to rename the playground the Gronk Playground once the project is completed.

In his remarks, Gronkowski thanked several people involved in the renovation, from Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides to Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner Jim Montgomery.

His final thank you was for the Patriots.

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“I also want to thank the New England Patriots, especially Mr. Kraft and my coaches and teammates,” he said. “The Patriots taught me the importance of giving back the very first day I stepped in that organization. A huge shoutout to Mr. Kraft and the Patriots for installing that into me and showing me the importance of what it’s like to give back.”


Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.