SAUK RAPIDS -- Two Sauk Rapids parks along the Mississippi River have been closed all summer as a multi-million dollar construction project takes shape.

City Administrator Ross Olson says the project is still on schedule with most of the work being completed by this fall. He says they'll finish up some landscaping work in the spring, and then it will be open to the public by next summer.

In Southside Park a pavilion building is being built for people to rent for things like weddings or larger gatherings. Olson says there will also be a patio in front of the pavilion.

The front of our Pavillion which will have amazing views of the river and the rapids will be a large deck area and people are free to use that while the park is open.  There will be a cool little feature on it, we're going to have a fireplace out there and that fireplace on those cool nights in the fall you can come hang out, just push a button and the fireplace will come on.

Olson says the pavilion will also have public bathrooms that will be open whenever the parks are open.

Sauk Rapids Park Project, photo by's Jim Maurice
Sauk Rapids Park Project, photo by's Jim Maurice

Olson says they wanted to create a place for the community to come and enjoy live events.

We're hoping to have everything from a classroom-type lecture to having some acoustical music in the park, to being able to host during a city celebration a larger more regional band.  Really have that spot where our community and region can congregate and enjoy the views.

Olson says the performance area is being modeled after a similar one along the Mississippi River in Elk River. He says they could seat up to 3,000 people for larger events.

In Lions Park there will be a water feature that will be splash pad for kids during the day, and a lighted feature at night.

And the opportunity for those jets to change colors, so in the evening hours the water feature will still be on and as you cross the bridge or come to the park you're going to see these water features spraying up in any color that the city decides.

Olson says next to the water feature will be a smaller building that you could rent for things like a child's birthday party, it will also have public bathrooms and a patio area to hang out on. That building was inspired by what they have in their parks in Maple Grove.

During the digging work, crews had to blast a lot of granite some of which has been saved and will be incorporated into the landscaping in the spring.

The entire project including the two parks and the overlook that is between them is about 15 acres.

The total cost for the project including both parks, the creation of a parking lot and redoing River Avenue is $9.1 million. The project is being paid for with half-cent sales tax dollars.

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