Most recently projected to be completed in June, officials now say the 81-acre property will not be done and ready for its first visitors until at least September, though the park’s sports fields may not be ready until early 2015.
The park sits on the Etowah River in the Canton-Cherokee Business and Industrial Park.
Councilman Hooky Huffman, who has kept a close eye on the project, said the construction company, Georgia Development Partners, has been dealt a bad hand with weather issues and a statewide shortage of the type of sod being used.
“They lost over 70 days, due to weather alone,” he said, adding finding sod has been the most persistent problem lately. “Everything will be ready, probably, in the next two or three weeks, except for the turf.”
The contractor also had issues with its project manager, who was recently replaced, and even more hiccups with the design of a nearly $300,000 amphitheater recently installed, according to Bill Echols, Cherokee’s capital projects manager.
Huffman said the sod issues are being resolved, but could still force the city to have a soft opening, not allowing games on the sports fields until early 2015. “It just depends on how much growing can we get in August and early September,” he said.
Etowah River Park, at the end of Brown Industrial Parkway, has been in the making for several years and is being funded by $3.1 million from the countywide parks bond. The city has also pitched in $709,313, including $291,000 for the amphitheater, officials said.
Once fully operational, the park will feature the fields, which will be multi-purpose, a playground, a foot bridge over the Etowah River, the amphitheater and a walking trail system.
Though the opening date is now months away, officials say the city has already had interest from people hoping to take advantage of the vast space.
“I’ve gotten some request for concerts series,” said Main Street Director Meghan Griffin. “The amphitheater is a nice space. It’s got a lot of room to have different concerts. I think it will be a really awesome space.”
Huffman said he’d spoken with the Canton YMCA, which is hoping to have some soccer games at the park. The councilman is also interested in the YMCA managing sporting events at the park, though the council has elected to wait on making a decision on management.
Though there are still things to hash out, Huffman said he’s anxious to see the park finally open. Huffman has taken a special interest in the park, as former Councilman John Beresford did for most of his term in office, before deciding against re-election last year.
Mayor Gene Hobgood said he’s looking forward to an end to years of waiting, since planning originated around 2008, when the county’s parks bond was approved.
“Everything good seems to take longer than you’d like it to, but ultimately we will get there,” he said. “That’s going to be a tremendous view down that river.”
He added the park will be an economic development tool for Canton.
“People moving in here want a place for their children to go,” he said. “It’s definitely a positive for the city.”
In the future, the city also plans to tie the park’s trail system with trails at Heritage and Boling parks, which both Huffman and Hobgood said will be a big plus for residents.