CENTRAL PARK, Winnipeg – Winnipeg’s historic Central Park officially reclaimed its prominence in the downtown landscape today as it reopened to the community.
The park was officially reopened today at a full community celebration by the Honourable Philip S. Lee, Lieutenant Governor; the Honourable Kerri Irvin-Ross, Minister of Housing and Community Development for the Province of Manitoba on behalf of the Honourable Greg Selinger, Premier; Shelly Glover, Member of Parliament for St. Boniface, on behalf of the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification; His Worship Sam Katz, Mayor; Ross McGowan, CentreVenture Development Corporation President & CEO; Jim Ludlow, CentreVenture Development Corporation Board Chair; Debbie Gray, on behalf of the Gray Family; and Richard Bracken, Winnipeg Foundation Board Chair.
“Central Park is truly a gem in the city of Winnipeg,” said the Lieutenant Governor, Philip Lee. “It is an excellent example of the cultural diversity we, as Canadians, pride ourselves on.”
“Parks play an important role in community life providing valuable green space for a variety of social and recreational opportunities,” said Kerri Irvin-Ross, Minister of Housing and Community Development for the Province of Manitoba. “From the city’s earliest days, Central Park has welcomed visitors of all ages and continues to be a beacon of outdoor freedom for the many new Canadians who make Winnipeg their home.”
“Our government is proud to have supported Winnipeg’s Central Park, which will help to improve our community’s recreational infrastructure and stimulate the local economy,” said Shelly Glover, Member of Parliament for St. Boniface. “We are excited to see this project come to fruition. It will strengthen our community for generations to come.”
“The revitalization of Central Park has long been conversational, but I am glad that we are here to see action today. In the last few years, we’ve seen a changing face on the landscape of our downtown,” said Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz. “I am pleased that by working with all of our stakeholders, this prominent downtown destination will be a positive beacon to be enjoyed by our citizens.”
The $5.6 million project has preserved an important city venue steeped in tradition and is an important element in the revitalization of the downtown area. The project was funded by a $2.6 million contribution from the Winnipeg Partnership Agreement, and $1 million each provided by CentreVenture Development Corporation, The Winnipeg Foundation and the Gray Family. CentreVenture President & CEO Ross McGowan considers the reopening of Central Park a success, on several levels. In addition, the Government of Canada contributed $538,989 through its Recreational Infrastructure Fund (RInC), a major job creating investment from Canada’s Economic Action Plan.
“During the rejuvenation of Central Park it became obvious that this area has become a hub for the downtown neighbourhood that lives within its vicinity. From the moment the soccer grass was in, there were children using it. I know that once we leave here today the children of this neighbourhood will quickly fill the splash park and the play area with their energy and laughter,” said Ross McGowan, President and CEO of CentreVenture Development Corporation. “We consider this a successful downtown revitalization project as we have made Central Park a destination once again by paying homage to its history and keeping its users at the core of what we did.”
Major supporters since the inception of the project, the Gray family are inspired by the results.
“It’s been wonderful to watch the progress of the renovation of Central Park. Even as we eagerly awaited this day of celebration, it was exciting to see people using and enjoying the park as the work went along,” said Debbie Gray, a member of the family that provided the $1-million lead donation toward Central Park’s rejuvenation. “So many people committed themselves to this vision, and we thank everyone from the local community and outside it who participated in the process of transforming Central Park into the beautiful gathering place we see today.”
“In the past few years, we’ve seen this area revitalized as it has become a hub for newcomers,” said Rick Frost, CEO of The Winnipeg Foundation. “The neighbourhood consultations and residents’ feedback about Central Park’s renewal are a key element in this community initiative. Through our Green Spaces Strategy, The Winnipeg Foundation seeks opportunities and partnerships – like this Central Park project – that improve the vibrancy of our downtown and help build a flourishing city,” he added.
Fundamental in creating the project’s concept and seeing it into fruition was architectural firm Scatliff+Miller+Murray. Senior Architect Bob Somers shares Frost’s community sentiment.
“Community sessions at the beginning of the project truly impacted the vision in a meaningful way. Continued communication with the locals in the area kept everyone involved and has given the neighbourhood real ownership of the project,” said Bob Somers, Senior Landscape Architect at Scatliff+Miller+Murray. “They drove the design and meaningfully engaged themselves as they invested their time, interest and enthusiasm into this process.”
The park is bordered on the north by Cumberland Avenue, Carlton Street to the east, Edmonton Street to the west, and Ellice Avenue to the south.
In its heyday in the early 1900s, Central Park was the hub of a highly fashionable area. The park was bordered by fine homes, and included walking paths, a bandstand, tennis courts, the famous Gothic-style Waddell Fountain and beautiful gardens.