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Process under way to revamp City Park
Neighbors unimpressed by the ugly and extreme construction
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Land adjacent to Bobby Gruhn Field gets cleared for a planned field house at the site. The new field house will replace the smaller field house and restroom facility that also included a concession stand. - photo by Tom Reed

Paying for the project

The total cost of the construction has been estimated at $900,000, with contributions coming from both government and private donations.

The building phase of the project will be paid for by Gainesville City Schools' chipping in $350,000 and $250,000 added by the city of Gainesville, Dyer said.

The property, which was once run by the city government, is now owned by the school system.

While the Gainesville Schools are the lead agency overseeing the construction, Dyer said a lot of support has come from the family of Dr. P.K. Dixon.

Dixon served as the Gainesville High School team doctor for nearly 50 years.

The family has paid $200,000 to fund the current stage of the project, which is to revamp the drainage system on the west end of the park and grade the land to prep construction. Other private donations have also come in.

Funds are still being sought to pay for a concrete plaza planned to accompany the field house.

"I hope that when people see the building going up that will encourage those who haven't donated to consider doing that," Dyer said.

Aaron Hale

 

City Park is getting a makeover as the construction phase is under way to build a new field house at Bobby Gruhn Field, complete with other trimmings.

However, the beginning stages of construction are not impressing the neighbors, who are looking out on a big clay pit and bemoaning the loss of their tree-furnished view.

One resident called the progress "ugly and extreme."
The project to replace the old field house with one double its size is a joint-funded venture by private donors, Gainesville City Schools and the City of Gainesville.

Currently, the project — which began as an idea five years ago — is in the process of preparing for actually building the field house, said Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer.

With the whole project complete, the park will have a new 7,500-square-foot field, complete with concessions, public restrooms and dressing rooms for home and visiting teams.

There will also be a plaza accompanying with the field house to host outdoor events, though funding for that part hasn't been secured yet and construction will likely be delayed.

The bidding process is under way to contract for the construction of the field house. Those bids will be opened later this month, said Dyer.

The hope is that the field house will be completed by August, Dyer said, in time for the Gainesville High School football season.

Still months away, though, the changes to City Park have been jarring for nearby residents.

In order to raise the level for the field house and to make room for a new emergency vehicle access road, a stretch of long-standing trees was cut down in December during the grading process.

"We're all sick about it," said Longstreet Circle resident Cindy Stark, who gets particularly upset with the loss of the trees but also at the construction noise that's come with it.

"They act like they're building the Taj Mahal with how much construction they are doing," she said.

Harold Westbrook, who has lived in the Longstreet Hills neighborhood for nearly his entire life, is trying to take the long view on the project. He said he's pleased with the plans to remodel the drainage system on the west end of the park, but admits initial stages of construction have been tough.

"It was a shock for everyone on the street when the trees came down," he said. "I don't think we realized we'd lose so many of the big trees."

In their place, Dyer said 116 trees will be planted and as soon as the access road is built, and grass will be planted to cover the clay.

Westbrook, a retired bank executive, has diligently studied the plans and asked questions to experts on the subject.

He notes that a lot has changed in the neighborhood over the decades, and most of the changes have been improvements. He pointed to one section of the park where construction is under way where he said the city used to dump trash many years ago.

Westbrook calls the new renovations the "most ambitious" change he's seen, but is generally optimistic that he and his neighbors will be OK with the results.

"It looks like they're doing it right," he said. "We'll just have to be patient."

 

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