Civic Center slowly returns to vibrant new life today

This map shows what parts of the Civic Center reopen today. (City of Scottsdale)

Love is returning to the Scottsdale Civic Center.

The famous statue by Robert Indiana will be up, along with three other pieces of public art, when two-thirds of the Civic Center reopens today, Jan. 22, for the Arizona Concours d’Elegance auto show today.

The Winfield Scott memorial called “Windows to the West” – one of the first pieces of public art purchased by the city and which marked its 50th anniversary last week – will also be back, as will the Mayor Herbert Drinkwater statue.

The Yearlings statue is still being refurbished and scheduled to return next month.

The new-look Civic Center will have some new exhibits while some familiar public art pieces will be going away.

For example, the desert garden will be new when the center’s last section opens up but the Mountains and Rainbows art piece is now located at the DC Ranch Park in northern Scottsdale.

The other six pieces of the public art earmarked for the center will be located in the part of the part between City Hall and the library that is scheduled to open in March.

“We are opening up the western two thirds of the project,” said Erin Walsh, Capital Improvements Projects spokeswoman. “The way I best describe it as the area from Old Town Scottsdale at Main Street and Brown Avenue, which is known as the west entry and now it’s known as the West Paseo will be open.

“You will be able to get all the way through to the 360 (degree) stage, the East Lawn, the Civic Lawn, Marshal Gardens. There will be pedestrian access all the way through to the north City Hall parking lot, which is a great thing.”

The park will boast an open design so that City Hall can be seen from Old Town looking through the Civic Center.

“This project came out of an extensive community involvement project,” Walsh said. “Way back before it was a bond project, the City Council approved a master plan for the Civic Center. A lot of the infrastructure was built long, long ago. It was crumbling and it was failing. At one point we had to close Drinkwater (Boulevard) because the overpass was failing.

"So we knew we had to put money into it and rather than piecemeal it together.

“We really comprehensively designed, a cohesive public space that can also hold large scale events. We opened it up to the community and we told them to dream big. What did they want it to look like? What was important to preserve? What was important to let go of and what needed to evolve? One of the things we definitely heard was we needed a space that was active at all times. In other words, not just have be a pass-through.”

The center will have two stages, including one that is an open 360-degree design equipped with lighting, audio equipment and electrical requirements already in place for anyone renting it out.

Some residents were afraid the park would lose trees, but contractors actually added 103 to the project.

And a reduction in turf lawn, the use of low-water materials and drip-irrigated plants is expected to save 5.8 million gallons of water per year.

But admirers won’t be able to just go down and check out of the new digs today. You’ll need a ticket to get into the Arizona Concours d’Elegance.

The refurbished park will be fully accessible to the public Jan. 23rd and the first non-ticketed event will be the Arizona Indian Festival on Feb. 4th and 5th.

The park was originally built in the 1970s and the refurbishing project was part of the 2019 bond project. It was originally budgeted for $27.3 million but the total cost rose by $6.2 million because of supply shortages, inflation and additions to the scope of the work (like adding lights and audio equipment to the stages). The extra costs are being paid for out of the city’s General Fund.

Shovels hit the ground for the refurbishing project in October, 2021.

Walsh said there was never a hard completion date put on the project.

“What we always said was, ‘We’d be Super Bowl-ready in January and that we would be opening up a portion of it in January but we always knew that to be fully complete, it would be done a bit after that,” she said.

“The funding was approved in the 2019 bond election and almost as soon as we had funding, we started the project,” she said. “We started with the demolition phase and we approved that in the contract but while we were doing that, we were still designing the project so we never had a firm completion date because we were still figuring out what it was we were going to build.

“And as we began construction, certain things got added to the project such as a sound and lights package for both stages and by adding that element, it also extended that timeline.

“It has been a challenging environment to construct things in,” Walsh continued. “There have been material delays right and left. That’s not unique to us. It’s been happening through out the construction industry. We built this differently than maybe we would have in different times.

“There was a lot of concrete, several different types of concrete involved in this project and valley wide, contractors were putting limits on how much concrete you can get at one time. Instead of doing some large pours we had to break them down into smaller pours. We had two concrete suppliers on contract as opposed to one so we are really proud of what we’ve been able to deliver on this timeline.”

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