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Construction begins on Longview's largest water playground

By by Peggy Jones
April 22, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Work has begun on the City of Longview's most ambitious splash pad ever.

The Jack Mann Splash Pad – named in honor of the late civic leader – will be a mega-water wonderland for kids which will encompass 10,000 square feet of water fountains, spouts and sprinklers.

By comparison, the city's other three water pads at Spring Hill, Broughton Park and Stamper Park, are each about 1,000 square feet.

Target date for opening the Jack Mann Splash Pad in Lear Park is, appropriately, June 22, when the city holds its annual Splash Day at the Longview Swim Center and Ingram Park.

The splash pad is a collaborative project of the City of Longview, the Longview Economic Development Board and the private sector, said fundraising chairman Les Rickett.

The magnitude and scope of the project has burgeoned from the original $500,000 estimate to more than $1.5 million, said Shawn Hara, spokesman for the city of Longview.

Hara said the city council approved using money saved on other park project upgrades for funding the Jack Mann Splash Pad.

The city completed several park projects approved by voters in a 2007 bond election for less than budgeted, Hara said. The council voted to use some of those savings on this project, he said.

The city will contribute a little more than $1 million of the construction costs; Longview Economic Development Corporation will provide $250,000 with the remainder coming from public donations.

The splash pad will include a covered pavilion, restrooms, parking and a state-of-the-art splash pad with three play areas – one with a western theme, another with a sports theme and the third with a pirate theme.

The western area will include tractors, windmills, an armadillo shooting water, and a stagecoach slide; the pirate area will include a crow's nest and pirate's ship shooting water, and a treehouse slide; and the modern area may include several rings and spouts shooting water and a football and basketball with fountain spouts.

When the park opens this summer, Rickett said, the sports-themed area will be complete but the other two areas will open with fountains and spouts, similar to Spring Hill, Rickett said. Features will be added as private donations come in, he said.

Private sector donations will fund all of the features in the various area of the park.

The Junior League of Longview has already committed $50,000 for the large windmill feature in the western portion of the pad, but the feature will not be in place in time for the park's opening, Rickett said.

Rickett said the fundraisers are about $100,000 shy of their $300,000 goal for the first phase of construction.

"This thing will have to be done in phases," Rickett said.

He said they have received in-kind donations that provide landscaping and assembling two pavilions.

The major private donors so far, he said, are the Mann family, Made-Rite Company and the Junior League of Longview. He said many of the donations have come from companies that did business with the Made-Rite Company, owned and operated by the Mann family since 1925.

Funding from the city of Longview and LEDCO will provide the major infrastructure for the splash pad, including the foundation, concrete, plumbing, and parking lot.

Laura Hill, director of community services for the City of Longview said, "As construction has been getting underway on the splash pad, you can really start to see the impressive scope of this project. The size and features of the splash pad are really going to be a great addition to Lear Park."

City and civic leaders believe the park will become a tourist attraction for the city.

"Like so many of our other park improvement projects, the Jack Mann Splash Pad is possible because of community partnerships and community support. Even though we are in the process of building the splash pad, there is still a need for community support to help add features and amenities."

Rickett said he can use all the donations and volunteers he can get until the park opens.

As part of the fundraising effort, Rickett said, volunteers are raffling a hot air balloon ride in the Great Texas Balloon Race, on the Dr. Pepper Balloon.

"There are various ways people can help," he said. "Volunteering to help with some of our fundraising events and in-kind work are all greatly valuable contributions and greatly appreciated."



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