KEARNEY — City leaders expect the new splash pad feature and other improvements in downtown Kearney’s Lions Park will be ready to open in the spring or summer of 2021.

The park, located in the 100 block of Jefferson Street behind Firehouse Community Center, is receiving updates that include more inclusive playground equipment, new entry signage, added parking, a unisex restroom structure, new picnic shelter and the splash pad water feature.

The Board of Aldermen heard an update on the project at a meeting with engineers, designers and parks and recreation department leaders earlier this month. During the meeting, Steve Casey of SC Planning and Design and Larry Reynolds of Vireo presented the plan’s details and projected timeline.

“We’ve got a good project moving forward,” said Casey.

The proposed 6,500-square-foot splash pad will feature 13 ground spray features and 12 above-ground features that are user-activated. There will also be removable and interchangeable features in an “action bay, family bay and toddler bay,” which are being constructed to accommodate groups of all ages with some separation between the areas.

The action bay will be made up of water cannons and other “high energy group play (options) for the more adventurous,” states the park plan. The toddler bay will feature park benches for families and smaller water features built for younger children. The family bay includes structures for the whole family like a spray loop.

Improvements to shelters include a possible new band shell and picnic area that could be rented out. The plan also includes the possibility of new monument signage made with stone that will be compatible with the overall new look of the park. Current park artifacts like the Ned Bailey quote plaque, lions at the current entryway, Horn memorial sundial and granite plaque elsewhere in the park will be relocated in the park in a way, designers said, that complements the new design.

Old playground equipment being removed from the park is expected to be relocated in Mack Porter Park, located off Missouri Highway 33 near the Kearney School District bus facility.

Estimates for the work are just over $1 million with an additional $20,000 for the monument signage and another $50,000 for the possible band shell. The city did receive a $250,000 grant to help offset costs.

The COVID-19 pandemic, Casey said, halted project work early March. Had that not happened, he said, the city was pushing for an accelerated timeline to have park features open this summer. However, the postponement of work, he said, put the city and its contractors in a better position to work through final designs “in a more consistent pace.”

The new timeline shows the project will be ready to bid in roughly four to six weeks with construction expected to begin in October and features ready to open, barring any further delays, in May.

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at or 903-6001.

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