Joe Herbert puts the finishing touches on one of the carousel's horses in this file photo. David Grace photo.
KINGSPORT — The Model City will be buying back a small piece of property from Food City, a 0.6 acre lot on Clinchfield Street, to help fulfill a promise made to some local volunteers working to establish a traditional carousel in the downtown area.
Earlier this month, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen gave final approval for the purchase of the small lot at a price of $140,000. The lot is located along Clinchfield, between the two entrances to the new Food City shopping center.
The property will eventually be transformed into a small city park, thus fulfilling a promise city officials made to Engage Kingsport, a group of woodcarvers and volunteers who have been working for the past five years on re-creating a traditional carousel adjacent to the Kingsport Farmers Market.
Reggie Martin with Engage Kingsport, said the group is elated and excited about the property purchase coming to a conclusion.
“Everybody feels really good about where we are today,” Martin said.
The carousel will include 32 wooden riding animals, two 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 build the “round house” to house the carousel (estimated cost $500,000), along with a connector building for a ticket booth/gift shop. The organization previously raised $260,000 for the project, and in May received an undisclosed, yet sizable donation from Pal’s Sudden Service founder Pal Barger.
Martin said Pal’s donation has allowed Engage Kingsport to expand the round house from 60 feet to 70 feet in size.
“It’ll be a much more comfortable and spacious building than the original design,” Martin said.
Kingsport plans to install a traffic signal at the intersection of Press and Clinchfield, create a crosswalk across Clinchfield at Press and work with Engage Kingsport on a better design for the round house.
“The carousel building will now be swung toward the driveway area and allow us to build a larger building and have the entrance facing the farmers market parking lot,” Martin said. “It allows us to funnel most of the parking to the carousel into the farmers market lot rather than Food City’s lot.”
According to the action item approved by the BMA earlier this month, the city has also agreed to certain stipulations regarding the carousel project.
• The shopping center entrance located between the lot and the farmers market will eventually be closed.
• When the park is built, it will be done in a way as to not obscure the view of the shopping center.
• Some parking spaces will be created within the fence at the farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
• Adjustments to the carousel’s operating hours will be made to avoid conflicts with multiple events.
While Engage Kingsport is planning to open the carousel in the spring of 2014, Kingsport has not earmarked any money for the construction of the park, though City Manager John Campbell said earlier this year funding for the park would not likely be allocated until the 2015 budget.
As for the status of the carousel, Martin said 18 of the riding animals are complete, nine are being painted and the remaining five are currently being carved and will likely be finished in the next two to three months. Seventeen sweep animals have been carved (with one completed) and seven have yet to be started.
The skunk and raccoon have yet to be sponsored.
Martin said volunteers are continuing to work on restoring the frame of the carousel along with stripping the paint from the panels in front of the center motor.
“We’ll begin to resurface those next month and it will require some ornate painting, which we’ll have a call for artists for that work,” Martin said.
The ticket booth has yet to receive a sponsor — at a cost of $15,000 — and the current major fundraising effort is the Campaign 2014 “First Rider” project. Martin said the organization is hoping to sell 2,014 packets (each with six tickets) for $100 in an attempt to raise $200,000, which will go toward the connector building and stock for the gift shop.
“First Rider” tickets are available at Able Printers, Blue Ridge Property offices (all 3 locations), the Carousel Carving Studio (2nd floor, Lynn View Community Center), the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Kingsport Association and the Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts located on the second floor of the Renaissance Center.