The family was among the first visitors to enjoy the new lawn as the fences surrounding the park came down after 14 months of renovation.
The Rodriguezes were driving to take the children to another park Monday when they saw the crews pulling down fences and decided to stop.
Before the construction, they would make a trip at least once a week to Lincoln Park, walking from their home in a nearby neighborhood.
“It looks better,” Lisa Rodriguez said. “It’s not sore on your eyes anymore.”
Her husband, Alex, was also pleased with the completed work.
“It looks natural and refreshed,” he said. “Now we can bring a kite to the park.”
Lincoln Park’s 14.31 acres — second in size only to Veterans Park, among Tracy’s parks, for general recreation use — had major upgrades beginning in March 2011, including an automatic irrigation system, a new walking path and a steel gazebo. The park’s turf was reseeded, and the perennial borders were spruced up.
Early in the construction, a water splash play area was installed near the children’s playground.
The renovations cost an estimated $1,566,956.
The park opened almost three months ahead of schedule. The Parks and Community Services Department planned to have fences down no later than July 3, in time for the city’s annual Fourth of July Day in the Park celebration.
Leading a group from the neighborhood to the park for a Wednesday morning visit, Lisa Atherton was happy the grass was once again open for use.
“It was a long wait — the kids wanted to constantly play in the park,” she said, adding that before the closure, she and her children were regular park visitors. “We love this park — love it’s close to home, love it’s close to the library. It feels like a little piece of Americana.”
The decision to open the park early even surprised Don Scholl, the superintendent of the city’s parks, sports fields and tree division.
“I was surprised the park was ready as early as it was, (but) it came together better than we hoped,” he said.
Crews had to wait for the blue rye-blend grass to fill in throughout the park and take hold. Scholl said the underlying Bermuda grass would eventually grow through and give the park a durable cover for the park’s many activities, such as soccer.
With the majority of the work completed and the grass cover established, Scholl said he felt confident about opening the park to the public. There is still minor work to complete, including park lighting and a bus shelter on the southeast corner, but it wasn’t enough to keep the park closed for a couple more weeks.
Scholl said a number of the improvements in the park might not be too noticeable. A new planter box will help disguise the fence line along the south border, and the new irrigation system is entirely underground.
“A lot of the work is real subtle, but it will make a big difference” he said.
Lincoln Park has traditionally played host to Tracy’s summer concert series in the past, a series that moved to Civic Center Plaza during construction. Plans had been made to rotate this summer’s concerts to different parks in the community, as the early availability of Lincoln Park was uncertain.
The Tracy Arts Commission decided at its meeting Tuesday, April 10, to keep the concerts at Lincoln Park, but it will open the six-week performance series each year at a different park around town.
This year, the concert series will open June 14 with a Latin-themed show at MacDonald Park, west of Central Avenue between First and South streets.
The concert series is also returning to Thursdays starting at 7 p.m., and will run through July 26, skipping July 5.
“They wanted to honor the tradition of being at Lincoln Park,” said Jeffrey Haskett, theater supervisor of Grand Theatre Center for the Arts, about the commission’s decision.
He said the group still wanted to reach out to other communities around town and offered the rotating opening as a compromise.
Haskett said improvements at Lincoln Park, including a concrete pad, would allow the city’s mobile stage to be set up easily at the park.
Lisa Rodriguez said she thought moving the concert series might be a good thing.
“It does give the community a chance to see different parts of the city and other neighborhoods,” she said.
Her husband, though, was adamant that the concert series should stay in Lincoln Park.
“I think it (attendance) would go down,” he said. “I wouldn’t go to the concert at another park. It’s always been here, and people get set in their ways.”
Atherton agreed that Lincoln Park was the only place for the summer concerts.
“There is not another park I can think of,” she said. “If they can do it here, they should.”
Lincoln Park is one of the most heavily used parks in the city, according to the Parks and Community Services Department.
“When you think of Lincoln Park, you think this is Tracy’s park,” Lisa Rodriguez said.
The park is open daily, from dawn to dusk, and community members can rent space for events, picnics or parties by calling 831-6200.