Super park cost climbs

City leaders asked not to cut corners

HARLINGEN — The price of the super park is going up.

The park’s first phase is expected to cost $3.1 million, up from the previous estimate of $2.6 million.

That’s what City Manager Dan Serna told city commissioners in a meeting with the Harlingen Community Improvement Board yesterday.

Costs jumped as architects fine-tuned the first phase of the project, which has an overall cost estimate of $8.5 million.

The Community Improvement Board’s $1.6 million fund balance could cover the increased cost, Serna said.

The park’s first phase will include an entry court, two pavilions, a gazebo, a water jet, restrooms and parking lots.

The city is designing the so-called “destination park,” to be built in five phases, to draw tourists dollars to town.

“It’s a great project,” Serna said. “What we have here gives you that destination park people will come for. It’s a very nice layout.”

The first phase will be bid out with a proposed walking trail included as part of an alternate bid.

The trail, along with lighting, is projected to cost $200,745, documents show.

“If we don’t have money now we can look at it later,” Serna said, referring to some of the project’s features.

The city could try to land grant money to fund the trail.

“We can pursue grants for the trail. That’s something that’s realistic,” Serna said, noting grant money has helped fund other city trails. “We’ve gotten grants for trails already.”

As part of the overall project, another trail will lead to the city’s $17.6 million convention center.

Directions for leaders

Commissioners asked Serna not to cut corners.

“I think we’ve got to be careful not to be value-engineering the project down,” Commissioner Tudor Uhlhorn said. “I’d rather see what ever we do now is nice.”

Commissioner Victor Leal said the city could fund some of the park’s features later.

“We are going to pay as we go and if we stretch it out a little, it’s OK,” Leal said.

The park’s design aims to grab tourists, Jesse Robles, the Community Improvement Board’s president, said.

“When visitors come to the park it should have a full impact,” Robles said. “We’ll have tourists to make ourselves a stronger tourist destination. It has an economic impact on our community because of its proximity to the convention center and the build-up of that area. I hope we’re putting that impact to meet those expectations. It’s all visual. It creates that sense of place in that park.”

Mayor Chris Boswell said features such as restrooms and parking lots are already needed to serve growing numbers of residents who use the park, home to Casa de Amistad and city festivals.

“This is going to be practical improvements,” Boswell said. “We are really trying to improve this park with nice features — practical things. Already, it’s a very heavily-used complex.”

How we got here

The plan to develop a destination park ranks among the top priorities in the city’s new 10-year comprehensive plan.

The park’s first phase lays out the foundation, the next four phases to include features such as an amphitheater, athletic courts, an adaptive field aimed at special needs children, a discovery center and a dog park.

The project’s fifth phase is expected to include construction of a $1.2 million retractable roof to cover Harlingen Field.

The park is expected to feature everything from concerts, art exhibits and sports events.

Construction on the project’s first phase, expected to be to begin in late July, is projected to be completed within eight months.