BRADENTON, Fla. - One year ago, the Bradenton Riverwalk opened. City officials say they had high hopes for the park, and it has exceeded all their expectations.
Ever since the walkway and park along the Manatee River opened on October 18th, 2012, it's become a gathering spot for the community.
"This park is beyond our wildest dreams; the success and the way the community has responded to this park is something we never imagined," says David Gustafson of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority.
Almost 400,000 people have used the park in the last year.
"It’s everyone's park. And you can come down any day, walk in the park, and there's diversity by age, by gender, ethnicity." Mayor Wayne Poston says it's been a real boost to Bradenton's economy. “An awful lot have come to see us. The skate park, we’ve had people from all over the Southeast who want to see that park. It’s not just a concrete bowl, it’s set up for regional competitions.”
And local businesses are benefiting. "It's really been a snowball effect directly into the community, into the downtown area. And we’ve got restaurants that are under construction, three breweries that are under construction…our gorgeous hotel, our Pink Palace hotel will be opening up November 19th," says Gustafson.
And the whole community will celebrate with a big birthday bash this weekend. A free concert was held Friday night, and the party continues Saturday from 4 to 10 pm. “Another free outdoor live concert with amazing local talent from Tampa to Sarasota," says Laura McKeithen with Realize Bradenton.
For many, many decades the people in Bradenton struggled with what to do with this big empty piece of property that they called “The Sandpile.” Now looking back over the past year, they say when they decided to put Riverwalk here they made exactly the right decision.