SAUK RAPIDS -- The Sauk Rapids park renovation project along the Mississippi River is set to make its official debut to the public this week.

The Clearing will have a brief dedication and ribbon cutting on Thursday at 5:00 p.m. before the first Riverside Nights concert begins.

Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

While the city is hosting a 10-week concert series every Thursday night, City Administrator Ross Olson wants to make it clear that it is still very much a public park that is open to the general public whenever the park is open.

It's a place to have lunch.  It's a place to just casually sit on a Friday or Saturday.  We've already had some impromptu musicians just show up in the park and give a free concert.  We're really hoping this becomes that spot people just come and enjoy the river.

Olson says the 1851 Square amphitheater can be used by anyone who wants to perform.

The larger event center named Riverside Terrace has a patio area with benches and a fire pit. The fire pit has a button that you can push to turn it on anytime. Adirondack chairs will be placed around the pit as well.

photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

The events center is high tech from the lights, to the shades, to projectors, and blue tooth. Public wifi will also be available.

Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

The city plans to host some city events in the buildings yet this year but they won't be available for the public to rent until next summer.

Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

In Lions Park, several picnic tables have been added outside the Lookout building next to the splash pad. The building has both public and private bathrooms. It can be rented for smaller gatherings such as a child's birthday party.

Olson says he's hoping to be able to turn on the splash pad by the end of July.

Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

He says the overall project along the Mississippi River has been over two decades in the making.

In the entire 21 years that I've been here, there's been some discussion on how to best utilize this very valuable space.  It is a wonderful beautiful spot right along the Mississippi River.

Other work to be done in that area includes replacing the current playground equipment in Lions Park with new equipment and also working on the landscaping on the promenade between Southside and Lions park.

The total cost for the renovation project is about $9.1 million dollars.

The music this Thursday features Paul Diethelm at 5:30 p.m. with Strange Daze at 7:00 p.m. Olson says three food trucks will be selling food this Thursday night, with one also selling beverages.  You are welcome to bring your own as well.

Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice
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