Buda park closes for a year as $4 million renovation starts

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BUDA, Texas (KXAN) — Buda’s City Park closed Thursday and will remain fenced off to the public for the next year as contractors revamp the space with $4 million approved by voters in 2014.

The scope of work will expand the park significantly as workers replace playgrounds, install a splash pad, create space for volleyball and horseshoes, remake the pavilion and build an amphitheater for concerts and other performances.

Events that use the park, including the Wiener Dog Races put on by the Buda Lions Club, will have to find new homes for the next several months, “unless by some miracle of miracles” the project finishes substantially ahead of schedule, Lions Club member Alan Robinson said.

It’s still too early for the club to say where next year’s races will be held, Robinson said, but one option the city and Lions Club are looking at to house the estimated 20,000 people who show up to the races each year is the Buda Sportsplex on the west side of town, a collection of baseball and soccer fields next to the Buda dog park.

“It makes good sense,” Craig Barron, owner of the Shaggy Dog Market, a pet store focused on healthy, natural products for dogs. 

His shop has been in business for the last year, but he set up a vendor booth at the Wiener Dog Races in 2017, selling treats and chews to the dog lovers who turn out in droves. “It’s a constant flow of people that are interested in what we carry and what we do,” he said.

The Shaggy Dog Market is also right next to the Buda Sportsplex, so it’s not far-fetched to think Barron might see a boost in business if that’s where the Lions Club chooses to hold the races next year.

“I’m not going to complain about it at all,” he said.

City workers on Wednesday were busy preparing for the closure, pounding metal posts into the ground and tying orange plastic fencing to them to close off the entire perimeter. 

The work is just the first step in what might become a larger park system in the central part of town. During planning for the renovation, the city spent $1.5 million to buy the 40-acre Garison Park, which adjoins the north end of City Park. When more funding is available, parks and recreation director Greg Olmer said, the city would like to develop a system of trails and possibly a disc golf course in the woods between the two parks.

“I wouldn’t say we’re becoming Austin in the scope of the size of their parks, but we’re trying to,” Olmer said with a laugh.

However, that purchase took some of $8 million allocated to parks and trails in the 2014 bond. It was a “once in a lifetime opportunity to get additional parkland,” Olmer said, but that opportunity siphoned some funding from the City Park plans. 

With contingency funds, the city is still in good shape to do the planned work, he said, and he hopes to make up even more of it with corporate sponsorships. 

His office has been actively courting businesses in the area to put up $100,000 to $750,000 to sponsor the grill and picnic area, pavilion, playgrounds, splash pad, activity lawn and amphitheater.

Olmer said the parks and recreation department has been working closely with the groups that use the park for events, including the Buda Lions Club, to find new homes for the coming year, and once the work is done he believes City Park will be an even better venue for the wiener dogs to run in 2020.

“Right now they’ve been kind of confined to certain spaces out here, but with that expansion, it’s going to open up a lot of opportunities for them,” he said.

The $8 million for City Park and other park and trail improvements is just one piece of the $55 million voters approved in Buda’s first-ever bond election in 2014. The bond also included $7 million for drainage, $12.25 million for streets, $6.75 million for a public safety facility and $21 million for a new municipal building.

The city plans to move into the new building next month. Updates to the other projects can be found here

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