Construction of Downtown Vidalia City Park stage is underway.
Just as the Vidalia Sweet Onion, makes its appearance in early spring, so will Vidalia’s newest project.
The Vidalia City Park is now in the final stages of completion and according to Vidalia Finance Director and City Clerk William Bedingfield, the excitement is beginning to grow as each layer of the structure is completed.
“In 2012, the Vidalia Police Department relocated to a new Municipal Annex building leaving a vacant, outdated structure behind,” Bedingfield explained. “After much consideration, Mayor Ronnie Dixon and council decided to have the structure demolished and at some point perhaps adding additional parking to the area adjacent to historic downtown. Since parking is an ongoing issue in every downtown, that was an obvious use for the site. However, the desire by the Mayor and Council to further enhance the downtown area and provide a place for the community to gather for concerts and events led to the idea to build a theater/park area with adequate parking, green space and a place that would attract visitors.”
The one-way pairing of U. S. Highway 280 opened up the north and south sides of the downtown providing full exposure of the historic district on the major thoroughfare that flows through the heart of Vidalia. This one-half acre site that had become a vacant lot had become a focal point in an area that thousands of cars pass by daily.
With the location being prime, easily accessible and in the heart of the downtown, community leaders began to envision a place where events and activities could be held that would draw visitors to the city and the downtown area. At the same time these discussions were going on, the Vidalia Onion Festival Committee had begun planning for the 2014 festival which always includes a street dance.
The street dance had to be relocated to the airport during the road construction and the desire to have that event moved back to the downtown area influenced the thoughts of having a location available for events and entertainment downtown.
With the assistance of a local draftsman and her conceptual plan, City Manager Bill Torrance had his work cut out for him.
Bedingfield said Torrance met the challenge head on and was determined to get the job done. Torrance secured the plans and a construction manager; had a commitment from Toombs County to assist with funding and won support from the elected body to fund the balance of the project with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds. The only obstacle was time,” Bedingfield explained. “It was now November and the Vidalia
Onion Festival was in April and there would be a street dance at the new park.”
Bidding was let, contractors were chosen, and construction began Janu-ary 10, 2014, with 88 days until the fabulous Temptations would be performing on the yet to be constructed stage. Through some cold days, snow, sleet and rain, the workers pressed on; working to create a centerpiece for the community, a drawing card for businesses and economic development, an attraction for the towns surrounding Vidalia.
As walls have gone up, the excitement and anticipation has grown. The site, referred to as city park, was no longer called an amphitheater, because the design had changed, and the stage was actually a 30 x 40 elevated covered surface. The facility will also house a “green room” and restroom for performers. The parking lot, which existed previously around the old police station, has been removed, with a newly designed parking lot with 75 parking spaces accented with grass islands, trees and plants.
The area directly behind city hall will feature a sculpted grass area for benches and tables surrounding a fountain that will pay tribute to the famous Vidalia onion.
“Once complete, the Vidalia City Park will be a gathering place for the community, the perfect setting for the Vidalia Onion Street Dance, local farmers and vendors, events and celebrations,” Bedingfield said. “Wired for sound, electricity and water service, the city leaders are encouraged that the new Vidalia City Park will be one of the “sweetest” things to come out of Vidalia since the onion.”
Join the celebration April 24-27, 2014, for the 37th Vidalia Onion Festival. Friday, April 25, will feature the “Temptations” performing on the new stage. For more information on the festival go to vidaliaonionfestival.com