TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn turned the ceremonial scissors over to his daughters Tuesday morning to cut the ribbon and officially open Water Works Park.
“Think about it,” Buckhorn told the crowd gathered beneath the park’s peaked band shell. “Think about what this used to be. Think about what it will become. This is a legacy for my kids.”
While Buckhorn spoke, kids’ squeals wafted from the park’s splash pad water feature as an enormous yellow bucket tipped over, drenching the children below.
Tuesday’s opening was just the first step. A grand opening party is scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, complete with food trucks, music and fireworks.
The park is already booked for 14 events through the end of the year, according to parks director Greg Bayor. The list includes Halloween’s “Scream on the Green” movie, which will move from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
The are still some kinks to iron out with the new park. The black metal fence along Doyle Carlton Drive needs to be finished. So do the dog park, boat docks and kayak launch.
Tampa Heights residents Ingo Fochler and Lindsey Berkshire don’t mind the wait. They’ve been watching the park evolve from an abandoned, empty lot over the past six years.
The came to check out the new park with their dog, Heiko, and baby son, Falko, in tow.
“It’s kind of like it was built for us,” Berkshire said. They’re already planning to have Falko’s first birthday party at the park in a couple weeks.
“We moved here because we hoped something was going to happen,” Fochler said.
City officials see the park as the thing that will spur new development in Tampa Heights. Within sight of the park, the historic Tampa Armature Works building was wrapped in scaffolding, It is being restored as part of The Heights redevelopment project getting underway between Doyle Carlton Drive and North Boulevard.
“This is a magnificent park for the citizens of Tampa,” said City Councilman Mike Suarez. “It’ll bring people to this area and create jobs.”