Waterloo Park Reopens This August After Being Closed To The Public For A Decade
The last time Austinites were able to take a stroll in Waterloo Park, Barack Obama was in his first term as president, Contagion was scaring moviegoers with its portrayal of a fictional pandemic, and the median price for a home in Austin was under $250,000.
“Gangnam Style” wasn’t even a thing yet.
Now, 10 years later and five years over schedule, the 11-acre city park east of the state Capitol is set to reopen. The Waterloo Greenway Conservancy, the nonprofit that operates the park, says it does not have an exact date for the reopening, but it will be sometime this August.
"Everybody can enjoy the old Waterloo Park. Only a lot, a lot better,” Kathy Miller, the group’s interim CEO, told KUT on announcing the reopening.
The park was initially closed in 2011 to allow the City of Austin to build a flood-control intake building and tunnel underneath Waller Creek. That project, starting at Waterloo Park and stretching down to Lady Bird Lake, opened up a 30-acre swath of prime downtown real estate for development by lifting it out of the floodplain.
At the time, the redesign of Waterloo Park and the Waller Creek Greenbelt (nowcalled the Waterloo Greenway) was pitched as a visible public benefit arising from the $164 million flood-control project.
John Rigdon, the Waterloo Greenway Conservancy’s director of planning and design, said it has also taken park planners more time than expected “engaging and getting the feedback we need” to get the park design right.
“Most recently, we've had some impacts relative to opening and timing that with COVID," he added.
A Brand New Look
Miller said the new park will feature wetlands, a "Hill Country garden” and a pedestrian bridge “that travels throughout the length of the park.”
Eight heritage trees were also transplanted to the park from other parts of town that have been redeveloped.
But the biggest change to the park will be the addition of a 5,000-seat outdoor concert space known as the “Moody Amphitheater.” There will also be a second 200-seat performance space called the “Lebermann Plaza” meant for smaller shows.
The Conservancy said there will be many free performances, along with private shows.
Concert promoters C3 Presents and Live Nation will manage concerts at the Moody Amphitheater. Miller said those shows will require people to buy tickets, but “ there will be 100 community tickets made available for free to members of the community for every concert that we are doing with Live Nation.”
During private shows, she said, the park will remain open to the public, but the amphitheater will be accessible only to ticket-holders.
Rigdon said a lot of the new park features, including restrooms and concession stands, would not have been possible without the flood-remediation project.
“That made it safe to come in and put in these amenities,” he said.
Before the park closed in 2011, it was a popular space for community events. To kick off its reopening, the Conservancy is planning to host live music and events, including a series of free monthly “intimate performances” at the Lebermann Plaza and a Day of the Dead Festival in October.
The Conservancy also plans to offer an outdoor holiday movie series at the park in December and to return this November with its popular “Creek Show” night walk, featuring light-based art installations along Waller Creek.