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Renovations at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park prepare area for world stage

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park
Posted at 5:01 AM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 08:29:46-04

WINTER HAVEN, Fla.  — Winter Haven's Martin Luther King, Jr. park is full of history.

Back in the 1800s the railroad came through this area and brought visitors and tourists, according to Andy Palmer, City of Winter Haven Parks Planning and Strategic Initiatives Manager.

"Then into the 1920s and 30s we actually had the Citrus Expo here and President Calvin Coolidge actually came here in the late 1920s. And so this has always been a recreation and really civic area," explained Palmer.

Fast forward to the 1950s and TV shows were televised in the amphitheater. In the 80s, that's when the idea came about to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was officially renamed and dedicated in 1990.

Today, it's home to the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team and it still remains a place for events and brings the community together but it's getting a much-needed face-lift.

"Since that time, we really felt the need to renovate this park for the next generations," explained Palmer.

The city has added the skate park, a trail and renovated the amphitheater.

"The amphitheater now has a berm seating rather than concrete, and we're really excited to get that going," said Palmer. "The piece that you see under construction behind me is the last piece of that and what that is, is we have new sidewalks going in which and we have a piece that there's actually an entrance to the water for handicapped individuals."

The city will add a new Dr. King memorial and a new building with an observation deck, concession stand and restrooms.

"So, what that's going to do is that's going to allow us to modernize our park, and then reactivate it for all of our all of our traditions and celebrations that we've done over the years and really set us up for again, those uses for the next generations," Palmer said. "In the next year, we're going to actually host the Water Ski Championships of the World and World Wakeboard Championships. And so that's actually going to be on the world stage. So this is going to be on the world stage. And what that does, then it really makes this place it continues to make the park Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, a place for everyone. "