Friday, August 12, 2022

In Photos: Rainy day at Riverfront Park, downtown green space and amphitheater opens to public

Riverfront Park will transform into a Live Nation amphitheater on nights of concerts. When the space is in “park mode,” people can hang out on the lawn and stage. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands)

WILMINGTON –– Plan accordingly: If it’s a rainy day at Riverfront Park, there are not many places to hide from the torrential downpour, as one Port City Daily photographer found out recently. However, on a sunny day, the urban green space will be perfect for picnics and strolls. Eat lunch on the stage if you choose, suntan on the lawn, let a child climb the jungle gyms, or (namaste) do yoga in the outdoor “classrooms.”

On Friday, journalists got a “first look” at Riverfront Park from city park manager Dave Pugh, who shared he’s most excited to enjoy the perk of having an office in a concert venue when Widespread Panic performs later this month. On his tour, Pugh highlighted some of the nooks and crannies of the park that previously were hidden from outside the construction gates. While most of the hype has surrounded the large stage overlooking the Cape Fear River, there are also outdoor “classrooms” and a play area for families to explore.

“It’s really the keystone park for the City of Wilmington,” Pugh said. “In the past, Greenfield Lake was our largest and most visited park, and now we have this, you know, 6-and-a-half-acre beautiful park right here on the river, downtown, and that’s just something not very many cities can brag about.”

City leaders cut the ribbon to Riverfront Park later in the afternoon.

“I get goosebumps when I look at it from the stage or from the back,” Mayor Bill Saffo said. “The other night I just went down to show my parents, and there were people, already had jumped the fence and gotten into it and loved it. It was just great to see the kids down there and dogs –– it was just unbelievable.”

The $38 million, 6.6.-acre park is officially open to the public –– except for one portion. The west gardens are still under construction due to weather-related delays. The park features 24,000-square-feet of gardens, 1.8 acres of lawn, and 4,900 linear feet of paths.

On Saturday the park may or may not be accessible as the city sets up for Fourth of July festivities and adds finishing touches in the morning. Come Sunday at 1 p.m., it’s guaranteed to welcome all for the city’s family-friendly grand opening. People can reach the park through the Riverwalk’s two connections or the accesses on Nutt Street and Cowan Street. There will be free entertainment throughout the afternoon as well as a beer garden, hosted by the Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance, and activities for kids.

Pugh said the event is a way to test out the venue ahead of the first concert.

Check out some highlights of the park. Click to enlarge and scroll:

Park-goers are welcome to sit on the stage when performances aren’t going on. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
Live Nation is bringing in 2,400 seats on nights of concerts. It has on- and off-site storage. The lawn can fit up to 4,800 people in general admission. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
The stage is equipped with lights. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
A two-story building next to the stage includes storage, dressing rooms and offices. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
Live Nation is managing the venue for the city. It can schedule up to 20 shows a year and has the ability to request authorization from the city manager for additional concerts. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
There are several green rooms for artists to lounge during their visits to the amphitheater. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
Dressing rooms are located on the second floor. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
Musicians can hang out in this room, nearest to the stage, before they go out to preform. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
One of the VIP areas is located on the second floor of the building. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
The interactive water feature has LED lights. Red, white and blue will illuminate the water this Sunday for the Fourth of July. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
The “outdoor classrooms” offer spaces to host yoga or other events. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
The play area is open during the day. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
The park includes a play area for kids. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
The city’s parks and recreation department has offices on the site. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
The west gardens are expected to open by mid-July. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)
The park has an entryway to a residential area on Nutt Street. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)

Check out Port City Daily’s past coverage:
July 2: Trying to catch a concert from the Riverwalk? Patrols planned during park concerts
Jun. 26: City works out final details for Riverfront Park, one portion unfinished
Jun. 15: City plans music-filled Fourth of July opening at Riverfront Park, fireworks
May 30: City gets almost everything it wants in Riverfront Park, possibility of river access uncertain
May 8: Riverfront Park will bring thousands of visitors, 0 parking spaces. Is saving the downtown trolley the answer?
Dec. 19, 2020: After delays and cost increases, city anticipates June 2021 opening for Wilmington’s North Waterfront Park

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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