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Parts of Tampa's popular Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park closing for repair

TAMPA — Parts of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park are closing for repairs that will cost a total of $2.1 million, city officials said Tuesday.

But not all of the park will be closed.

The Riverwalk, the dog park, the children's playground and the terraces will remain open during repairs, which are expected to be done by Oct. 1.

One of the park's most popular features, the Louver Fountains next to Ashley Drive, has been closed for a couple of months because of a major pump failure that has entailed replacing all of the fountains' components.

"Not an easy fix," city spokeswoman Ali Glisson said. The fountains are expected to re-open within two weeks.

Since opening in early 2010 at a cost of $15.7 million, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park has become Tampa's town square, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, as well as a concert and festival venue that draws spectators from all over the Tampa Bay area. It hosts more than 50 events a year that attract more than 250,000 people, mainly in the winter and the spring.

"Because it gets such heavy use, pavers are getting busted and they are starting to become uneven," Buckhorn said. "We had some water intrusion into an electrical system. … It's such an amazing asset to our city that we've got to keep it in great shape. We're going to do it in the summertime when it's not being used as much because it's so hot. I don't want to be in the middle of a construction project in the height of our season."

Nothing has been canceled as a result of the repairs, Glisson said. City officials knew the work needed to be scheduled, and this typically is a slow time for the park. Last year, the park had one event in August and one in September whose organizers have since moved their plans to October, when they'll have better weather. A third event, a run, changed its plans because of road and utility construction that affects its downtown route.

So far the city already has spent about $1 million of the $2.1 million project budget to help the park drain better.

The remainder of the project will install further drainage improvements along with more sturdy and stable pavers to accommodate large events and concerts. But the park's large lawn and paved walkways will be closed during the work.

Funds for the repairs are coming from the Community Investment Tax, a voter-approved half-cent added to Hillsborough County's sales tax to pay for schools, roads and other local projects.

Next year, the city plans to spend another $600,000 to upgrade the park's lighting and electrical system.

"That park was value-engineered," Buckhorn said, "and we're paying the price now."

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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