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Weeklong celebration planned for Imagine Clearwater

Mark Parker



Clearwater city officials have allocated $482,000 for Imagine Clearwater's opening events. Aerial rendering provided by the City of Clearwater.

After nearly seven years of planning and construction, Clearwater officials want to commemorate the long-awaited opening of the city’s $84 million downtown waterfront redevelopment in grand fashion.

Councilmembers approved allocating $482,000 during Monday’s work session to pay for a week of events beginning June 28 and culminating with the annual July 4 fireworks display. They will formally vote on the general fund expenditure Thursday.

Imagine Clearwater connects 19 acres of park space to downtown via a bluff walk. It also includes a bay walk promenade overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, a pirate-themed playground with $1.2 million in equipment, an expansive splash pad, a 320-foot-long lake with a pedestrian bridge, covered picnic pavilions and four acres of flexible event space.

Its amphitheater – recently named The Sound – is a focal point of the project and the opening events. Ruth Eckerd Hall will operate the 22,649-square-foot bandshell with 4,000 covered seats and lawn space for another 5,000 people.

Interim parks and recreation director Art Kader expressed his excitement to see what some city officials spent over 20 years “dreaming what can happen in the downtown area” finally come to fruition. He said staff has planned a “grand celebration” spanning eight days “so everyone can come enjoy and see the park.”

“It is just going to transform the downtown area and Clearwater, in general,” Kader said. “All of the days, it should be pointed out, there will be something for everybody.”

Mayor Frank Hibbard (left) speaks at a topping-out ceremony for Imagine Clearwater in January. Photo: City of Clearwater.

Kader noted the $482,000 budget does not include public safety costs, which the council will hear and approve at a future meeting. Communications director Joelle Castelli explained that an informal survey helped inform programming decisions.

City officials have gathered about 1,400 responses since Feb. 22, and the survey portal will remain open until March 22. She said performing arts and a farmers market are the top requests, followed by outdoor movies, athletic events and food and beverage options.

“Pickleball is not available at the park, but it continues to be something people ask for at Coachman Park,” Castelli said.

“And everywhere else,” replied Mayor Frank Hibbard.

Castelli relayed that in addition to traditional media channels, city officials would buy advertising and create a web page highlighting Imagine Clearwater events. Utility bills will also include information about the grand opening celebrations.

She added that the new website would allow people to sign up for automatic phone calls, text messages or email alerts. The mayor expressed his concern with traffic and parking, particularly on July 4, and Castelli said staff would promote alternative transportation options, like ride-sharing services.

City officials are also finalizing a remote parking service that allows visitors free use of the Jolley Trolley. “We’re also going to try to encourage people to come throughout the week, so we don’t overcrowd that main, July 4, day,” Castelli said.

Administrators are still finalizing contracts with performers and establishing event times. However, daily themes will highlight something the city celebrates, culminating with Independence Day’s “Clearwater Celebrates America” festival.

A rendering of Imagine Clearwater’s splash pad and park.

Here is the tentative schedule:

Clearwater Celebrates Coachman Park – June 28

The official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for Coachman Park will feature branded giveaways and a free community concert at The Sound.

Clearwater Celebrates Diversity and Culture – June 29

Features market vendors; multicultural dance troupe performances; children’s activities and a free community concert at The Sound.

Clearwater Celebrates the Music – June 30

Features the opening of the Tunnel to Towers 9/11 exhibit; a craft beer garden; a local music performance on the lawn; a food truck experience; buskers and street entertainment and a ticketed concert at The Sound.

Clearwater Celebrates Community – July 1

Features neighborhood promotions; a 5k running event to benefit Tunnel to Towers; a farmer’s market; local music on the lawn and a ticketed concert at The Sound.

Clearwater Celebrates Hispanic Culture – July 2

Features Latin dance classes; Latin musical performances and DJs; a food truck experience and ticketed concert at The Sound.

Clearwater Celebrates Wellness – July 3

No large events will occur as officials prepare for the July 4 celebration. There will be health and fitness classes and a community wellness walk.

Clearwater Celebrates America – July 4

The final grand opening celebration features a classic car show; a photo booth; street performers; a farmer’s market; children’s games and entertainment; a free Florida Orchestra concert at The Sound; “the largest fireworks display in city history” and a post-fireworks silent disco party on the lawn.



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