KENNESAW — Kennesaw held a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday for Depot Park, the latest effort to revitalize the downtown.
The park features a playground, open play field, walking trail, picnic tables and benches. It’s adjacent to the Historic Train Depot, the 19th century Carrie House, used for art shows and small gatherings, and the 60-seat Depot Tunnel Amphitheatre, which hosts performances, weddings and lectures.
The next step for Depot Park is the construction of a larger amphitheater which Mayor Derek Easterling hopes can fit 1,500 seats, though the size may end up accommodating between 1,200 and 1,400 seats.
Construction of Depot Park was funded by a 1% special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST). The lawn, parking lot and upper meadow unveiled Friday cost about $1.9 million, according to Parks and Recreation Director Steve Roberts.
The concept for Depot Park began decades ago when CSX abandoned the depot and the city started leasing the land. Various plans were drawn up over the years and a Depot Park Master Plan was adopted in 2008. The master plan was updated in 2015.
“The vision started 10 years ago, 10 or 12 years ago … someone said we need more green space, we need a place to gather downtown,” Easterling said in an interview, later adding that it would increase walkability and convenience.
“People wanted access to green space in downtown areas. And they didn’t want to have to travel,” the mayor said.
Easterling called the park a “focal point,” while Roberts said it would be “our Central Park.”
“This is the heartbeat of our city,” Roberts said. “And that (amphitheater) will be the crown jewel of this park.”
As to when the amphitheater would be completed, Easterling was bullish and said two years from now. Roberts explained that the design phase was well along, but that the timeline depends on construction costs and how much money is collected through SPLOST. The amphitheater will be funded by the 2022 SPLOST collection cycle — other phases of the master plan were funded by 2011 and 2016 SPLOST cycles. Roberts couldn’t give a definite cost estimate for the amphitheater.
When the 2022 SPLOST project list was released, Kennesaw listed the estimated cost of park improvements at $6 million, though that includes some aspects that have been completed, such as a parking lot and green space that will be used for festivals.
“That’s my biggest worry with the amphitheater, is where we are with construction costs,” Roberts said. “And maybe having to pump the brakes enough to be able to afford it.”
Easterling emphasized the amphitheater wouldn’t be “chintzy” and that the city wouldn’t sacrifice quality in favor of speed.
“If we have to wait, then we have to wait,” Easterling said.