BRADENTON, FL. - Bradenton is celebrating the grand opening of the city's new Riverwalk.
City leaders are began with the dedication of the new First Responders’ Memorial. This will be the place that on every September 11th, Bradenton will remember the heroes we lost that day and celebrate the men and women who keep us safe here on the Suncoast every day.
Next came the ribbon cutting. More than 130 area businesses, organizations and artists decorated 4-foot long sections of ribbon. They were all sewn together to create a one of kind ribbon that stretches more than 500-feet.
The Bradenton Riverwalk is a mile and a half long, and took 6.2 million dollars to build. But the number that really hits home is the number of years it took to make this a reality.
Bradenton has been trying to do something with its waterfront for decades. While others failed to materialize, this one took off. After getting input from more than 4,000 people on what they wanted for Bradenton's riverfront, the Bradenton Riverwalk is now a reality.
When those plans were finalized, construction didn't take long at all. “The process was a several year process, but now to this point, this was a 10-month construction project, and that's the other thing that a lot of the people when they come out here we remind them that it’s only been 10 months that the project's been under construction, they're just shocked. Good quality materials, stainless steel, aluminum, a lot of local vendors, so we're really proud of that. A lot of job creation for our local community," says David Gustafson, Executive Director, Bradenton Downtown Development Authority.
Bradenton's mayor is just plain giddy over the Bradenton's new Riverwalk. "We did something and finished something, and people quite honestly didn't think we would ever get done. It’s a gem! I can't tell you how excited I am," says Mayor Wayne Poston.
The mile and a half long Riverwalk has something for just about everyone. There's an amphitheater for music lovers to enjoy concerts, play areas for the kids, volleyball courts and a skate park that's already earning a reputation as the best in Florida.
Organizers say it will have an impact on Bradenton and beyond. "We really believe that when people come into Manatee County come into the region, Sarasota County, we really think that people will want to bring their friends, their relatives, their guests to this facility to enjoy the amenities that it has."
Those amenities will get some use. Realize Bradenton has lined up about 40 events for the park in the coming months. “Really, what we're doing here in the city of Bradenton is a national model, because what we're doing is putting together physical assets with cultural assets in a walkable, riverfront community," says Johnette Isham.
The events begin Friday with a free movie night. They will be showing Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol on a three-story movie screen at Rossi Park. On Saturday afternoon, you can learn about fishing from area guides during a fishing college at the pier.