KINGSPORT — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen did more than just approve Kingsport’s budget for 2014 this week. City leaders also took action on a number of smaller, but notable projects as well including the Allandale amphitheater, the downtown carousel project and the Kingsport Aquatic Center.
The Kingsport Aquatic Center and the YMCA Wellmont Center officially opened their doors just over a month ago and almost immediately found parking space during peak times went from challenging to nearly impossible. Patrons filled the 300 existing parking spaces and started parking behind the facility (where employees are supposed to park), on the grass around the perimeter and the old contractor’s site near MeadowView Parkway.
Kingsport has even established an overflow parking lot at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center and plans to run a shuttle bus to and from there on the weekends through the end of summer.
Two weeks ago, the BMA approved on first reading a measure allocating $160,000 for the construction of an additional 70 parking spaces on the property to be located between the entrance road and the outdoor water park. The master plan for the facility calls for parking at this location.
On Tuesday, the measure was approved on second reading by the BMA. The $160,000 allocated by the city represents 80 percent of the overall project; the remaining $40,000 of the work will be paid for by the YMCA.
Denark Construction — the company that built both facilities — began work on the new spaces earlier this month and according to Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager, the city is anticipating the spaces being completed by July 4, barring bad weather.
Over the past five years, “Engage Kingsport” — a group of woodcarvers and volunteers — have been working to re-create a traditional carousel in downtown Kingsport, complete with 33 wooden riding animals and chariots, 24 rounding boards depicting notable sites within the city and 24 hand-carved “sweep” animals around the top of the ride.
Engage Kingsport plans to fund the construction of a 60-foot octagonal building adjacent to the Kingsport Farmers Market to house the carousel (estimated cost $500,000), along with a connector building to house a gift shop. The organization raised $260,000 for the project and recently received a large donation from Pal’s Sudden Service founder Pal Barger to complete the construction of the round house.
Initially, Kingsport had planned to build the connector building ($50,000 to $75,000) for the project, but now, as part of an informal agreement with Engage Kingsport, the city plans to build a small park at the corner of Clinchfield and Press streets.
During Tuesday’s BMA meeting, city leaders approved a measure to purchase the 0.6-acre lot back from Food City for $140,000, with the money coming from two previous bond issuances. However, no money has been allocated for the construction of the park.
A few months ago, City Manager John Campbell had allocated $400,000 in next year’s CIP for the design and construction of the park, but in the 2014 budget approved on Tuesday, that earmark had been removed from the CIP. Campbell said the money would likely be allocated in the 2015 CIP.
A short connector road runs between the proposed park and the farmers market and ideally, Engage Kingsport would like to see it closed and converted into green space. However, the connector road is not included in the proposed property purchase from Food City.
Campbell said there is no need to close that section of roadway until Kingsport is ready to move forward with the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Clinchfield and Press.
“There’s no need to close that section until we’re ready to do the reconfigure,” Campbell said, noting the signal would likely be put in place within the next two years.
Reggie Martin, with Engage Kingsport, said the organization would like to see the road closed to allow the carousel to better incorporate with the park property.
The exact layout and design of the park and how the carousel building will fit onto the property has yet to be finalized. Martin said architects are looking at the connector building and a cost estimate has not been determined.
Engage Kingsport is still shooting for a spring or early summer 2014 opening of the carousel, Martin said.
Last summer, work began on a new, outdoor amphitheater located behind the Allandale Mansion beside the Heron Dome. The 2,000-square-foot theater includes a permanent, tiered stage with a 10- to 14-foot backdrop wall and dressing rooms.
A sound and lighting system were originally planned for phase one, but due to a challenging fundraising environment, these items have been pushed back to a future phase, said Lorrie Cooper with Friends of Allandale, a volunteer organization that seeks to improve and enhance the mansion and its grounds.
Friends of Allandale has raised nearly $264,000 for the project and has received $122,500 of in-kind contributions. The BMA previously pledged $30,000 a year, for three years for the project, and has given the Friends of Allandale the first installment.
On Tuesday, the BMA voted to provide the remaining $60,000. Total cost of the project is approximately $446,500.
Cooper said the organization requested the remaining funds from the city due to the amphitheater being complete and ready to use.
“Since we knew Friends of Allandale would be the first to use it and that would happen this summer, we felt justified in asking for the rest of the money,” Cooper said.
A ribbon-cutting event for the new amphitheater is scheduled for July 28 at 5 p.m. followed at 6 p.m. by a “Music at the Mansion” concert by the Symphony of the Mountains orchestra.