The dream of a new downtown Franklin park that took shape years ago will be fulfilled this weekend.
Tucked behind the Franklin Farmers Market parking lot and businesses on Jefferson Street and Jackson Street, Youngs Creek Park adds new greenspace to escape city life.
The park will also be intertwined in city life and drive tourism. It will host thousands of visitors for the city’s new concert series and downtown festivals.
For the first time this weekend, the park will be filled with the sound of music. The wide, lush lawn at the DriveHubler.com Amphitheater will be crowded with lawn chairs and blankets.
Scents of burgers, tacos and kabobs will waft from food trucks parked under twinkling lights. Beer and wine will flow.
About 74 days ago, this dream was in question, as construction was 10 months behind schedule and had progressed slowly during the winter months. City officials thought the odds the park would be ready to debut this weekend were 50/50.
City officials and the contractor, Fishers-based Myers Construction Management, Inc., broke ground on the project in September 2020 with an original goal to have the park ready to go by July 2021. The goal post was moved to October 2021 and then to this weekend.
An early delay with shoring up the amphitheater foundation added a few weeks to the construction schedule, but supply and labor shortages were the major sources of the delay, said Chip Orner, the city’s parks director.
But that’s all in the past now. With just days to go before the opening weekend, the park is all but complete, Orner said.
“The biggest things left are landscaping and irrigation. We could have a concert without either one of those things, so we are past that point,” Orner said.
All the major amenities of the $9 million park are ready to go: the 5,000 capacity amphitheater, inclusive playground, splash pad, pickleball courts, walking trail, restrooms, vendor areas and a pedestrian bridge linking the trail in the park to the trail in Greenlawn Cemetery.
Finer detail work, like fencing around the playground, installing irrigation, stringing up additional overhead lighting, planting flowers and bushes, and painting lines on the parking lot remain, Orner said.
Since the work is substantially complete by the contract end, city officials aren’t planning to fine the contractor, but will withhold the retainage fee until the park is fully complete, said Steve Barnett, Franklin mayor.
“We are all really looking forward to this – the city employees and officials who’ve been working on this for two years,” Barnett said. “We want to get this behind us and improve our quality of life in other ways.”
To celebrate the grand opening, Franklin officials are planning an all-day celebration on Friday, starting at 10 a.m. with a marathon of five ribbon cuttings celebrating different parts of the park and the sponsors who made those possible. The celebration culminates with the amphitheater’s first concert that evening. Opening act Gavin Curry takes the stage at 5:30 pm. and headliner Blue River Band goes on at 7 p.m.
The celebration will continue Saturday with Festival County’s festival season kick-off luau from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.