A popular Gainesville park is temporarily closed as developers install improvements to it this summer.
Fred Cone Park, located at 2841 E. University Ave., is receiving new shade structures and drainage systems to improve the experience. The shade structures will cover the spectator bleachers by the park’s track, while the drainage systems will keep the field dry after rain.
Betsy Waite, director of the City of Gainesville’s Wild Spaces and Public Places department, said the changes will protect visitors from the sun and add a layer of comfort to the parks.
There is not an exact date the park is expected to reopen. Waite said the projects are weather-dependent, but residents can expect the field to reopen at the end of summer or early fall.
Shade sails have been installed in more than 10 parks across the city, Waite said. This is the second installation for Fred Cone Park, which had a shade sail placed over its playground area in early 2018.
“People expect to have shade,” Waite said. “I think people are more conscious nowadays of trying to protect themselves from UV rays.”
Waite said while the new shade sail has finished being installed, drainage improvements are ongoing.
“Before, when it rained [heavily], the field would be unplayable for a couple days,” Waite said. “It took a long time for water to drain through the soil and get off the site.”
Waite said the drains the department is putting under the field will be beneficial during the rainy season. Because the drains are underground, people may not see the difference, but local teams using the field will be able to play after rain much sooner than before, she said.
The shade sail project cost about $75,275, while the drainage improvements will cost about $343,000, Waite said.
The projects are funded by a one-half cent sales tax passed in November 2016. Alachua County voters approved the amendment to improve and maintain sensitive lands and parks and recreation centers in the county.
Many community teams use Fred Cone Park for practice, including Gainesville High School’s football team, Eastside High School’s track team and other local clubs.
Larry Holsey, director of the track club the Gainesville Striders, said his team practices on the park’s track throughout the week and uses it for organized track meets.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” Holsey said, referring to the improvements.
He said it will affect the Striders “a great deal,” as visitors and spectators can watch the track meets without worrying about Florida’s heat or bringing their own tents.
“We’re hoping the fans really enjoy the upgrade that the city is doing,” Holsey said. “I think that the city is doing a wonderful job keeping up the park. We look forward to continuous upgrades so the community can enjoy it.”