TAMPA — Want a preview of Water Works Park, envisioned to be "like a mini-Curtis Hixon," in the words of one parks official?
This morning is the time to see it.
After Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's annual state of the city speech, city officials will let the crowd walk to a bridge over the spring-fed basin at the park, targeted to open in July.
So far, the park is on schedule and within its $6.5 million construction budget. The 5 acres is still an active hard-hat site, so it's a little early to see the festival lawn, the Hillsborough River overlook shaped like a ship's prow or the splash playground with a giant water bucket that will drench the kids below.
Still, enough dirt has been moved to suggest the possibilities, especially around the spring, which bubbles up at the northeastern corner of the park. The basin that it will fill is still a hole in the ground, but it is designed to be big enough for manatees to loll in. And manatees know the spring is there. Before construction, they would crowd around with their snouts near a pipe that poured fresh spring water into the more brackish river.
When the park opens, the manatees will have an opening they can swim through to get into that basin, and the Riverwalk will go over that entryway with a bridge.
But mostly, Water Works is designed to draw people.
"This is going to be another event park," said Brad Suder, the superintendent for planning, design and natural resources for Tampa's parks and recreation department. Though smaller than the one at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Water Works' festival lawn still will be big enough for art shows and food festivals. There will be an event pavilion with a stage, built with support from the downtown Rotary Club, that will be positioned at the south end of the park, facing inward, so that the audience sees downtown Tampa's skyline in the background.
Historical and nautical touches are designed to help establish the park's identity and tie it in with the look of the surrounding neighborhood.
A playground will have a rope climb designed like a ship's rigging. And park structures will have red brick and the same slope to their roofs as the park's next-door neighbor, Ulele Native-Inspired Food and Spirits, which restaurateur Richard Gonzmart is creating inside the city's old pumphouse.
"We're trying to make all the architecture in this general area cohesive," Suder said.
Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, d[email protected] or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.