San Diegans now have a new place to play – with a waterfront view, to boot.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, city leaders and residents celebrated the very highly-anticipated grand opening of the region’s largest and free Waterfront Park on Saturday.
A free community kickoff party held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. showcased the brand-new public outdoor space located at 1600 Pacific Highway and Harbor Drive, between Grape and Ash streets, in downtown San Diego’s picturesque Embarcadero area.
The celebration boasted various activities, live performances, a classic car show, a farmer’s market and a food truck pavilion. A beer garden and a “sports zone” rounded out the entertainment.
Thousands of locals flocked to the grand opening, many impressed by the new, family-friendly park.
“It is really beautiful. It’s so nice to be in the middle of downtown and have green, and water and places for kids to go and people to have picnics," resident Joanne Wahl told NBC 7. "Visitors are really going to enjoy it when they walk along the waterfront and see this. It’s almost like public art – with the water and everything.”
Local Ron Dismuke said Waterfront Park reminded him of a West Coast version of a very iconic place.
“To us, it’s our version of Central Park in New York. I’m glad we have something like this. We’ve waited 15 years for this day to happen,” Dismuke said.
“It’s not just swings – there are very innovative ways here to entertain kids, get them out, get fresh air. This is definitely not the playground that I had [growing up]! I want to be a kid again,” he continued.
County Supervisor Ron Roberts said Saturday's grand opening was a moment years and years in the making. In the end, the park turned out to be much different, and better, than what city leaders had originally planned.
“This day is – I feel like a little kid waking up on Christmas Day right now,” Roberts told NBC 7.
Roberts said he hopes San Diegans and visitors make the most of the park and enjoy every grass patch and picnic spot over the decades.
“I want to see everybody be able to come and celebrate here. It’s especially for our residents, there’s no question about it, but we want our guests to feel very comfortable here and to see San Diego as a beautiful place to be,” he said.
Attendees were encouraged to park at Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley for free and take the MTS Trolley to Embarcadero. Commemorative Waterfront Park 1-day trolley passes were available for the special event.
The Waterfront Park’s ceremony included a welcome speech from Chairwoman Dianne Jacob, plus remarks from other local leaders including Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Supervisor Greg Cox. A ribbon cutting signified the grand opening of the park.
Mother Sulekah Igah attended the celebration with her kids and said she was glad to have a new, fun place to take her family.
“It’s a wonderful place. You let the kids run loose, run around. Especially in the summer time, this is a perfect place. Being downtown, the park is easy to get to in all directions,” said Igah, adding that her kids were most impressed by the water fountain.
Brother and sister Reynaldo and Antonia Arellano enjoyed themselves at the park, playing on the slide and dipping their feet in the fountain.
“It’s really, really nice. I like how they added all the water. It’s a really good time here. The slide feels awesome – it’s really cool,” Reynaldo told NBC 7.
“It’s really cool and really fun and I like how they put all the fun stuff in. It’s really hot and then the water is cold and you can run around,” added Antonia.
The new Waterfront Park spans 12 acres, eight of which used to be parking lots north and south of the Administration Center.
The space boasts large, open grassy areas, a playground, shaded sitting areas, gardens and an expansive interactive fountain. Being in Embarcadero, the park also has an unforgettable waterfront view that can only be seen in San Diego.
To learn more about the park, visit the County of San Diego website.