Johnson City’s Memorial Park Campus continues to buzz with activity following the recent grand opening of the city’s new $15 million community center.
On June 7, the City Commission awarded a $1.4 million contract to C&T Construction to develop the campus’ East Main Street component to complement the new center. The company wasted no time in getting started and has made considerable progress.
“We’re looking at mid-January for a completion date,” said Randy Christiansen, project manager with Burleson Construction. “Of course, right after we started we had heavy rains in July. If we have some decent weather, we should be done sometime in January.”
After a few rounds of consultation with commissioners, local architect Tony Street completed a design that includes a plaza honoring veterans with the famous Doughboy as its centerpiece, as well as concrete walkways and other amenities.
Construction also will include a 350-seat amphitheater accessible from the plaza, lots of green space, fencing and concrete walkways that guide visitors not only around the park but also to and from its features. New red brick columns connected by black, decorative wrought iron will run along East Main, Bert Street and a walkway now finished between the park and the Johnson City post office.
The amphitheater is nearing completion. Eight rows of curved concrete — the top row being 116 feet long — will allow visitors to look down on a red concrete semi-circle that will serve as a stage for any number of events. Light poles are being erected on two large walkways that lead to this feature.
“You will sit on the concrete,” Christiansen said. “And in between the seating areas there will be grass. All the steps are lighted, and there will be connections nearby for additional lighting and sound systems. There also are stairs on each end, with handicapped access at one end.”
The main entrance is off East Main, but two other large entrances can be accessed — an additional entry point on East Main and another nearer the post office. These access points will be gated, but there are other ways for visitors to enter the Main Street component.
Nashville-based WASCO Inc. has renovated the original columns and brick that had served as the entry way to the old Memorial Stadium. This section retained the original flagpole, which of course was restored, as well as all the original red brick. New lighting has been supplied for the column tops and at the ends of the structure.
WASCO also has constructed red brick columns joined by black wrought iron along East Main. The city will do the same on Bert Street from East Main to the new community center, and from East Main to the back of the outfield fence at Cardinal Park.
Visitors will find a new 60-foot-wide concrete and red brick plaza just in front of this area which will be anchored in its center by the historical Doughboy. And, the existing Vietnam Memorial remains just to the south of the plaza.
The work was reason enough for Johnson City’s sacred Doughboy to leave his post for the first time in nearly 77 years. The iconic replica of a World War I soldier was carefully unbolted and taken from the location this summer to Gardner Paint Services where it is getting a facelift.
The refreshed iconic landmark will soon be placed back in its prominent position and serve as the centerpiece of the plaza, which will include a restored memorial wall directly behind it. The plaza will act as both a place of honor for veterans and a throughway to the new amphitheater.