Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I’ve complained more than probably anyone about all the froufrou on the Evans Town Center Park site. I’ve disagreed especially with the amount of asphalt converting the open grass into parking lots. And I’m not fond of the fact that the new pavilion faces onto a flat, rolling lawn instead of the typical bowl of most amphitheaters.
But here we are. And Friday Columbia County will officially open the Lady Antebellum Pavilion at the new park.
Sure, last Saturday actually was the “official” opening, with the ribbon-cutting ceremony and all that. And by Sunday afternoon, the park was swarming with families parking on those parking lots and playing on all those amenities.
That included a few dads tossing footballs on the green grass – there’s still a surprising amount of it left – and lots of people maneuvering their pets around the dog park, maybe even sharing a drink from the fancy combination people/dog water fountains.
During the early meetings to discuss the future of the former Kroger Field, or Doctors Hospital Field, a consultant who drew up a plan for what seemed to me like overbuilding the park suggested that its use would grow as specific amenities were added.
The idea, he said, was that an open field would attract free play, or an occasional lacrosse or football game, or golf-ball shaggers or model-airplane flyers. But building a park with attractions parceled out on it would draw far more people to more diverse uses.
So far, based on those crowds swarming the field Sunday, he’s right. There were no planned, scheduled activities; it was just a beautiful, sunny fall day on a clean, safe place to play. So people did.
And now, as the sun sets Friday, Lady Antebellum will play. I was critical of that, too; not of them playing, mind you. That’s a tremendous coup, and I was thrilled to be able to buy tickets after the campers played out.
But I didn’t like the idea of naming the pavilion after the country supergroup. Nothing against them; they’re fine kids, I think their music is great, and I’ve known Dave Haywood’s parents for a long time. I just have a longstanding philosophical opposition to naming things, particularly public venues, after living people.
What’s done is done. However we reached this point, only the most negatively cynical could even remotely see Friday’s concert as anything other than a remarkable, astonishing triumph for Columbia County.
County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, particularly, deserves credit for making it happen. He was audacious enough to put the band on the spot last year, announcing the pavilion naming and inviting them to come to the opening. It worked, and here we are.
Let the celebration begin.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/