SUTHERLIN — Thanks to a new splash pad completed last week, the new Central Park playground is now complete.

For two years, the Central Park playground has undergone a transformation. With the 14,000-square-foot playground opening earlier this month, and children playing everywhere — including at a water play area — the makeover is official.

The new splash pad, finished last Wednesday, features three rings, approximately 6 feet high, spraying water mists and jets blasting water from the ground. A statue of a bulldog, representing the beloved Sutherlin High School mascot, sits in a corner, shooting water from its mouth.

Surrounding the 1,000-square-foot splash pad, is the park’s playground, which the city installed on Aug. 4. It features swings, spinners and six slides. A climbing web and monkey bars are attached to one of the playground’s two main structures.

On Sept. 11, there will be a public ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the completion of Sutherlin’s upgraded playground area. The event will take place at 6 p.m., with Sutherlin Mayor Todd McKnight and city councilors expected to attend.

The completion of the playground upgrade in Sutherlin comes after the city of Roseburg canceled all bids on a proposal to build a splash pad and playground at Fir Grove Park. Roseburg city staff have said they plan to put the project to bid later this year.

Sutherlin city staff behind the project said upgrading the playground was a way to provide something special for the kids in the community.

For Kristi Gilbert, a developer for the project and community development specialist for Sutherlin, upgrading the Central Park playground would mean something that her own kids would enjoy.

It didn’t take her long to find out.

“In my entire life of living here, I have never seen the park this busy,” Gilbert said. “My children love it. They didn’t even care to come before this. Now they are begging me every day to go.”

The playground and splash pad project nearly stalled after the state rejected Sutherlin’s application for a $289,000 grant to cover most of the playground’s funding. Sutherlin City Manager Jerry Gillham said staffers refused to give up on the project.

“When (our proposal for a state grant fell through), we just put our heads together as a staff team and said that we aren’t going to let this not happen,” Gillham said, “(We wanted) to come up with every possibility on how we could finish (the project).”

The Sutherlin Parks Advisory Committee approved the plan Aug. 24, 2016.

Sutherlin received a $25,000 grant from the Roseburg-based Ford Family Foundation.

Along with the grant, the city funded the project through internal funds, including parks system development charges and a 3 percent transient tax.

On Sept. 12, 2016, the Sutherlin City Council approved for a three-year loan for the city to borrow $100,000 to pay for the project’s playground equipment. The city plans to repay it through transient room tax dollars, which Gillham said produces around $60,000 annually.

Sutherlin budgeted $325,000 to buy and install the splash pad and playground equipment. Community Development Director Brian Elliott said he expects Sutherlin to spend a maximum total of $324,868 from its budget, according to bills the city has received.

Elliott said Sutherlin bought the splash pad equipment for $57,060 from Ohio-based Raindrop Products LLC. The city hired Fitness Aquatics LLC to install the above-ground features for $22,500.

Sutherlin bought the equipment and rubber tiles used at the playground from Playcraft Systems, for a total cost of approximately $192,400.

However, in order to save funds, Sutherlin used city staff to help install it. Gillham said the city saved around $35,000 by installing the playground with city staff — funds he said the city would have spent to hire a company to set it up.

Sutherlin Public Works Superintendent Aaron Swan said the project was far different from what his crew of nine men regularly worked on. He could not be prouder how crew embraced the project.

“They are used to taking care of streets, sewer and water lines, a sewer and water treatment,” Swan said. “They embraced [the project], they worked their tails off in 108-degree weather to try to get this in on time for some summer to be left.”

Andrew Mason, a 9-year-old from Oakland, visited the play area for the first time with his mother, Molly Mason, and practiced on the monkey bars.

During an interview, Andrew said the bars are his favorite.

“It’s a challenge and they spin while you are trying to get across them,” he said. “This park is really fun.”

When the questions were done, Andrew dashed the full length of the playground to give the monkey bars another go.

Andy Field can be reached at afield@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4212. Or follow him on Twitter @AndyTsubasaF.

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