Falcon Park will reopen Thursday after being closed for a year for major updates.
The new look at Falcon Park includes repairs to the sidewalks, hut and picnic shelter plus new playground equipment, a walking loop, bathrooms and a concessions stand.
The completed project is park of a flurry of activity among the town’s parks and cultural facilities. The downtown museums complex recently got upgrades, and the town is moving forward with plans to remodel the former Stars Theater and transform it into a town arts center.
The reopening event is 5:30 to 7 p.m. and will have free hot dogs and hamburgers for the first 200 visitors. There will be a baseball scrimmage.
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Falcon Park, the oldest of the town’s 20 parks, received considerable upgrades over three phases. The final two phases, which cost more than $500,000, required a full year of closure after they began in September 2014.
In addition to the playgrounds and buildings, the town doubled the size of the parking lot and added an outdoor stage that officials expect will host performances and classes.
Officials also changed the elevation of different parts of the park, improved the drainage systems and planted trees and bushes. The work will make it less prone to flooding and will give it a significantly different look.
“We’ve made some significant improvements at Falcon Park,” said Jonathan Cox, the town’s director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources. “The most significant is just the drainage and grading to help with stormwater runoff.”
Before Falcon Park closed last year, it was the second-most visited park in Fuquay-Varina, after South Park and the community center, according to the town.
The initial phase of work began in 2013, after the town collected input from residents on a town-wide survey in 2012.
People who took the survey “overwhelmingly favored” plans to put in bathrooms and upgrade the picnic shelter and playground, said Susan Weis, Fuquay-Varina’s public information officer.
The downtown museums complex got a recent facelift as well.
Like Falcon Park, the museums complex got an outdoor classroom space, plus other upgrades. The area includes a local history museum and the original school and post office in town.
The Town of Fuquay-Varina built a new playground there last year, and this summer the town built ADA-compliant walkways between the museums, Library Park and Ashworth Park to help visitors with disabilities. The work cost approximately $100,000.
Elsewhere in town, South Park recently got a new picnic shelter. The previous one had to be knocked down this winter after local teens set it on fire on New Year’s Eve, causing $45,000 in damages.
Two young men have since publicly apologized for the fire, as part of a court settlement. They were also required to each pay $1,000 and spend 250 hours volunteering with the town’s parks department.
South Park won’t have to wait long for more work.
In October the town will rip up the playground, with plans to replace it with two new playgrounds. It’s part of the town’s master plan for parks and recreation.
Cox said the final designs aren’t finished, but he’s hoping to get the new playground equipment in by late October or early November.
The new playgrounds will have rubber mulch instead of wood mulch, which Cox said is a new standard that Fuquay-Varina is using whenever it upgrades a playground.
Arts center plans
The town announced Aug. 24 that it’s looking for companies interested in remodeling the former Stars Theater to transform it into a performing arts center. It issued a Request for Qualifications, also known as an RFQ.
Fuquay-Varina bought the theater in May in a controversial decision. Some residents wanted the town to partner with local businessman Bob Barker, who had proposed a sizable performing arts center with two theaters, a convention hall, classrooms and more.
That plan would have cost at least $13 million. Instead, the town voted 3-2 to buy Stars Theater, a privately run theater with productions and classes, for $575,000.
Charlie Adcock, Ed Ridpath and Jason Wunsch voted yes. Blake Massengill and William Harris voted no.
Fuquay-Varina plans to spend up to $2.5 million renovating the theater. Officials will hire a new staff member to manage the theater.
“That’s going to be a really big project for us,” Cox said.
If the RFQ process and the subsequent bidding goes as planned, design plans will be submitted to the town for approval on Jan. 19, 2016, with construction expected to begin in spring or summer of 2016.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran
Falcon Park reopening celebration
When: Thursday, Sept. 3, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Where: Falcon Park, 611 E. Academy St., Fuquay-Varina