Moments after Bulloch County commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson and Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar cut the ribbon opening the transformed Luetta Moore Park, children were playing in the new four-lane pool and cooling off on the new splash pad with its tipsy tilting buckets.
As the air temperature rose into the 90s, that water sure looked cool from the tent where guests, including members of the late Luetta Moore’s family, sought shade while listening to the opening remarks. The park’s newly expanded parking lots on both sides of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive were full of cars for the ceremony at 1 p.m., and then the pool and splash pad were open free of charge 2-5 p.m. Saturday, to be followed by further free access from noon until 5 p.m. Sunday.
“This park along with soon to be finished Rev. W.D. Kent Park will have a significant impact on the city’s youth, its seniors and community as a place for continued learning, physical activity, civic engagement, fellowship, family reunions and more,” said City Manager Charles Penny, welcoming people to the Luetta Moore Park reopening.
Kent Park and Luetta Moore Park together are the objects of a $4.5 million renovation project initiated by the city but with funding by the county and city together from their shares in the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. The Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department, which operates these parks, had lifeguards and other personnel on duty Saturday afternoon.
Penny thanked general contractor Lavender & Associates, design firm Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, members of the city staff, the Parks & Recreation Department, financial advisory firm Davenport & Company, the city’s new Urban Redevelopment Agency and state Sen. Billy Hickman for their roles in the project.
Other speakers at Saturday’s ceremony included City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Paulette Chavers, County Commissioner Ray Mosely, Thompson and McCollar. Local pastors opened and closed with dedicatory prayers.
In addition to the water features and added parking, Luetta Moore Park has new picnic shelters with grills and a new multi-age-appropriate playground. Goals and other hardware have been replaced at the existing basketball court, and the Zadie Lundy Douglas Little League Field has received some upgrades. The park has new fences and a new security system that includes sensors to signal if someone enters the pool area after hours and video cameras that can be monitored and recorded from Statesboro Police Department headquarters.
Grady Street’s park
Officials hope to see the renovation of the Rev. W.D. Kent Park on West Grady Street completed by the end of August. Some work on its parking lot, which wasn’t paved and now will be, remains to be done, and the picnic shelters and playground equipment remain to be installed and the ball courts painted. But the previously delayed playground equipment has arrived, and Lavender & Associates will now be able to dedicate its workforce to the one park, Penny said.
Kent Park will not have a pool or other water features, but the new central sports feature there is a covered, three-court basketball pavilion where there were previously open courts. An open half court and a walking path are also part of the design.
To finance both park renovations, Statesboro’s city government borrowed $4.5 million in March from Truist Bank at a 1.47% annual interest rate on a 10-year bond, issued through the Urban Redevelopment Agency.
The city earmarked $1.1 million over five years from its share of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue, and the Bulloch County commissioners a committed $1 million from the county’s share of SPLOST to these park upgrades. But the city will need further SPLOST funding, which would have to be approved by voters as part of a future referendum, or other funding to completely repay the loan.
Weekends till Labor Day
After this free opening weekend, admission to the Luetta Moore Park pool and splash pad will cost $3 per person. For this year’s brief season Statesboro-Bulloch Parks & Recreation will open these facilities on weekends through Labor Day, including 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays, and then also 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Labor Day itself, Monday, Sept. 6.
For the full season beginning next May, the Parks & Rec staff is making plans to open the pool and splash pad Tuesdays through Sundays, in addition to offering some special programming such as swim classes, said the department’s Community Relations Manager Broni Gainous.
The department is also looking at the possibility of offering some type of programmed swimming activity there this year, she said.
This story will be refreshed and expanded online and for Tuesday’s print edition.