Central Park conversion makes waves with locals

Downtown area once an eyesore, now teems with excited children


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Judging by squeals of joy, the splashing of water and heartfelt thanks, the $5.6-million overhaul of Central Park is a big hit with its neighbourhood.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/08/2010 (4664 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Judging by squeals of joy, the splashing of water and heartfelt thanks, the $5.6-million overhaul of Central Park is a big hit with its neighbourhood.

At an official opening that was several weeks later than initial projections, the park’s changes were unveiled before a delighted public on Thursday. It’s hoped the renovations, including a restored Waddell Fountain and state-of-the-art spray park, will help change the tenor of the inner-city park, which has had problems with drug dealing and vandalism.

Faisal Ismael watched as his daughters, Heba and Hadeel, screamed with excitement under cascading water.

JANEK LOWE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jesse Hutchinson and sister, Gracie Bauman, cool off in Central Park's splash park.

"My kids are so happy," said Ismael. "This is so good for the neighbourhood and it’s good to see people from all cultures playing here together."

Jennifer Bruneau was another excited parent who had taken her three-year-old daughter Jesse to bask in the sun and cool off from the heat.

"Oh, we’ve been waiting for this for a while," Bruneau said.

"Every day we would pass here and she would cry out wanting to come in. So, she’s very excited."

As the kids played with water-squirters and ran through hoops shooting out sprays of water, Mayor Sam Katz and community boosters responsible for the park looked on.

Funding for the project was provided by the city and province through the Winnipeg Partnership Agreement, as well as by the Winnipeg Foundation and CentreVenture with a $1-million donation from philanthropist Gerry Gray.

Ida Albo, co-owner of the Fort Garry Hotel, was credited in several speeches as having brought the once deteriorating park to the public’s attention.

"I grew up in this neighbourhood and used to play in this park as a kid," said Albo. "So the idea to revitalize this park seemed like a no-brainer."

Albo said she initially approached Gerry Gray who fell in love with idea, and once they secured funding it was full speed ahead.

"We consulted with the residents of Central Park and assessed what their needs were and this is what we came up with," Albo said. "We really wanted to make it a world-class park and go all out on it."

JANEK LOWE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Faisal Ismael with niece Aman Ismael, (left) and daughters Hadeel, 3, and Heba, 5.

As the speeches concluded, the ringing sounds of laughter and shouts of delight trickled through the dispersing crowd.

Back at the pool, four-year-old Yesha Sandiego was poised to jump in the water, her eyes tightly closed as she plugged her nose.

"She’s only been here two months, she just came from the Philippines," said her aunt Glenda. "She said there’s nothing like this back home, she’s thrilled."

St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover said the park was transformed.

"Hearts used to be breaking over this park and there was a lot of bad that went on here."

Park hours are Monday to Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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