As Birmingham and Jefferson County communities finish preparation for The World Games 2022, workers are in the final stages of completing City Walk BHAM, a downtown linear park that will serve as the central gathering place and entertainment venue for athletes, visitors and residents attending the international event.
“It’s been pretty exciting, watching it all come together,” said Steve Haynes, assistant region engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which is overseeing the $34 million project.
“It’s something that ALDOT is not used to building,” Haynes acknowledged.
“I really hope that local people will appreciate it. It is going to be a destination location. It is going to draw people to Birmingham,” Haynes said.
In the past few weeks, contractors have been planting greenery and installing turf and decorative pavers, benches and picnic tables. They are also finishing construction of public bathrooms, pavilions, playgrounds and other elements all through the 31-acre site, which encompasses 10 city blocks under the newly rebuilt elevated section of Interstate Highway 59/20 through downtown.
In an ironic but positive twist, the one-year postponement of the World Games because of the pandemic turned out to be a positive – for the Games and City Walk.
With the world reopening, the World Games will be the first, full-fan international sporting event since before COVID-19 struck. The event is scheduled for July 7-17.
And, with an extra year to finish its construction, City Walk is expected to be ready just in time to serve as the Regions World Games Plaza – a new public space for the thousands of visitors and athletes expected to arrive for the Games.
“The Regions World Games Plaza will be the heartbeat of The World Games 2022,” said CEO Nick Sellers. “From street performers and concerts to fun activations, great food and a merchants’ market, it will be the place to meet new friends from all over the world.”
City Walk stretches from 15th Street North, near the city’s Civil Rights District and Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, to 25th Street North at the Uptown entertainment district and Protective Stadium.
In addition to serving as the public plaza for the World Games, and a new public amenity all on its own, City Walk will provide pedestrian connectivity to multiple downtown attractions, from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to the Birmingham Museum of Art, historic Linn Park and the 20th Street North “Birmingham Green” – the city’s central north-south spine with its array of restaurants, shops and hotels.
“It’s all the stuff we would hope would happen from a planning standpoint – the connectivity,” said Haynes, whose expertise is planning and preconstruction.
As for City Walk itself, moving west to east, here are some of the amenities it will offer, according to the master plan:
- From 15th Street to 16th Street – A “recreational and gathering space” including a challenge course, amphitheater, “civil rights story zone” and multiuse field, along with a 1/4-mile walking trail.
- 16th Street to 18th Street – A skate park and food truck area.
- 18th Street to 19th Street – A performance space and outdoor classroom, along with parking.
- 19th Street to Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard – The City Walk’s “central plaza” with a water feature, outdoor stage and gathering space, garden path, restrooms, and security and information stations.
- Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard to 22nd Street – The “market space” – an area for farmers markets, outdoor art and craft shows and other scheduled events.
- 22nd Street to 23rd Street – The “beer and wine garden” where people can gather for café-style outdoor libations and food.
- 23rd Street to 24th Street – A dog park is the central feature here, along with pickleball courts, restrooms and parking.
- 24th Street to 25th Street – Considered the “gateway” to City Walk, this area includes a pond and greenspace, playground, restrooms and a pavilion.
Its location under the Interstate Highway 59/20 bridges also provides a potential plus for City Walk, officials said, providing shade during hot summer days and cover from downpours. Extensive decorative lighting will make City Walk a bright path for walkers and joggers after the sun goes down, Haynes said.
City Walk joins a growing list of parks and greenspaces in the Birmingham area. Discussions are underway about how to link it more formally to other parks and trails in the central city. They include the expanding Red Rock trail system, which now ties Railroad Park downtown and the Rotary Trail to the new Hugh Kaul Trail, near Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, which, in turn, now connects to the vibrant Avondale neighborhood to the east.
City Walk will be managed and operated by the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) under an agreement with the city. In addition to providing security and maintenance, the BJCC is expected to develop an ongoing schedule of special programs and other events on a regular basis in the park, BJCC officials have said.
Birmingham-based Brasfield & Gorrie is the prime contractor on City Walk. Haynes said the company devoted three full crews to the project so it could be completed within the 425-day construction contract – right on time for the World Games.
“Right now, we’re on schedule to do that,” Haynes said. “Whatever the World Games needed, those sites will be ready, but we believe the whole thing should be open in time.
“The sky’s the limit,” Haynes said, referring to the long-term potential for City Walk, especially with the World Games providing an opportunity to showcase the facility, and the entire city, on the world stage.
“What more could you ask for as far as publicity?” Haynes said.
Learn more about City Walk BHAM here.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)