Jones Park closes with plans for improvements

Jones Park Closed on September 26, 2016 (WLUK/Mike Moon)

APPLETON (WLUK) -- If you were hoping to ice skate in Appleton's Jones Park this winter you're out of luck. The park will be closed for the next year and a half.

However, the city says the closure will mean a better park in the future.

If you've walked by Jones Park recently, you've probably noticed the chain link fences. The park is closed and will be for some time.

"The exhibition center provoked us to get this done sooner than later," explained city parks director Dean Gazza.

According to Gazza, the construction of the Fox Cities Exhibition Center forced the park to close, but there's a silver lining: the closure has prompted improvements at Jones.

City leaders say $1.5 million has been budgeted for upgrades in 2017.

"Better access into the park, so it starts coming off Lawrence Street with a ramp and being ADA accessible," Gazza told FOX 11, saying there will still be skating rinks and new seating once the park is complete.

The park is well-known for hosting summer concerts.

"Jones Park has a ton of potential and we're just really excited about what could be," said Jennifer Stephany, the executive director of Appleton Downtown Inc., who told FOX 11 there will be maneuvering for Mile of Music and the Heid Summer Concert Series.

The hope is to reopen the park in spring 2018.

"We're anticipating not having that park for maybe two seasons," Stephany told us.

And knowing the fences will likely still be here next summer, event organizers are already looking at alternative venues.

"We'll just have to be creative on how best to use Houdini Plaza, maybe closing off an additional street, maybe using Soldiers Square," explained Stephany.

Monday Gazza showed preliminary plans to the parks and rec committee.

Jim and Mary Jo Scandin came to voice their concerns.

"Primarily for me and Mary Jo it was the vegetation, the trees. It looks like they're going to cut a lot of them down," Jim told FOX 11.

The Scandins told us they feel better after speaking with Gazza.

"He was very helpful. We're excited about the project. We're excited about the convention center and about the improvements in the park," said Mary Jo.

At this point the plans are still evolving. Gazza told us the public will be invited to give their opinions for the final plans.

"We're gonna have challenges. It's right in the downtown," he said.

There are also plans to build a new stage in the park. However, that is not part of the budget. City leaders say private funders have expressed interest in paying for that.

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