Politics & Government

Pieces of Naftzger Park, including iconic gazebo, to find new life in other places

This gazebo at Naftzger Park will be relocated to OJ Watson park when development of the area begins.
This gazebo at Naftzger Park will be relocated to OJ Watson park when development of the area begins. The Wichita Eagle

A flatter, more open Naftzger Park redesign gained approval from the Wichita City Council on Tuesday, and parks officials said items in the existing park will be used in other recreation facilities or auctioned off to raise money.

The redesigned park at the southeast corner of Douglas and St. Francis downtown will provide a place for concerts and other activities linked to the nearby Intrust Bank Arena, dining space and tables for food truck customers and a dog run.

The redesign eliminates the most iconic features of the existing park, including a gazebo that has been a site for wedding photos, brick and wrought-iron fencing, and a pond, waterfall and decorative boulders.

What the city can save, it will save for use in other city parks. What can't be saved will be sold as surplus through an online auction site, said Parks and Recreation Director Troy Houtman.

"We are definitely going to be trying to recycle as much as we can," Houtman said. "We're trying to save everything we possibly can and squeeze every dollar out that we possibly can."

The gazebo has been for decades the centerpiece of Naftzger Park and is "one of those items that we want to repurpose," Houtman said.

Allen Stoker spends a lot of time at Naftzger Park and says he wouldn’t mind seeing some upgrades to the downtown park that make things easier for the homeless population that frequents the park. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle/August 2017)

The current plan is to rebuild it in the west end of O.J. Watson Park, where it could be rented for weddings and parties to generate revenue. It has been available for reserve rental at Naftzger Park, but most people who have used it did so for free.

Houtman said his department is in discussion with contractors to build a new base for the gazebo at Watson Park and to oversee the moving process.

In addition to the gazebo, the Parks Department has plans for at least some of the stonework and masonry.

"We're looking at reclaiming several of the large boulders and using them for landscaping throughout our parks," Houtman said. "We're definitely going to be recycling at least one or two pallets of the red brick stone in parks as well.

"We're keeping the pump that manages the pond as a backup for some of the other pumps that we have. We are going to be taking off all of the metal grates on the walls . . . we'll be recycling those and placing them on (online auction site) Purple Wave."

Naftzger Park originally was to have been redesigned or partially redesigned in time for the NCAA basketball tournament weekend at the arena last month.

But the work was delayed by bumps in the plan to renovate the former Spaghetti Works Restaurant for apartments and to build new retail and office space between the east side of the park and the BNSF railroad tracks.

The first $1.5 million to rebuild the park will come from increases in property tax payments from the newly developed and redeveloped property.

City officials say they are not sure how far that will get them toward completion of the park plan. Future spending to complete the park will come from the city capital improvement fund, which comes from citywide taxes.

Major features of the new Naftzger Park include:

A stage and open area for concerts and activities, about half grass and half artificial turf.

An open-air pavilion, doing double duty as a park entrance and bus stop.

A dog run.

Parking spaces for food trucks, and tables and chairs for working or eating outside.

A shallow skim fountain and low water jets.

Decorative native plant box gardens.

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