Get ready for the grand reopening of Reiter Park, the new epicenter of entertainment and events in Longwood.
Living within walking distance to Longwood’s Reiter Park, Courtney Reynolds could not wait for the city centerpiece to reopen. After more than a decade of planning and transformations, that time has finally arrived.
“Reiter Park is so convenient,” says Courtney, the mother of two boys, ages seven and three. “We will definitely use the playground, and I love the idea of an outdoor amphitheater as a communal gathering space. This is exciting.”
Reiter Park has long been recognized as the heart of Longwood’s Historic District, which includes the allegedly haunted circa-1885 Longwood Village Inn; the 1873 Inside Outside House; Christ Episcopal Church, built in 1879; and the 1885 Bradlee-McIntyre House. In all, 37 buildings are part of the neighborhood, which was designated as a United States Historic District in 1990.
Tom Krueger, Longwood’s economic development and special projects manager, says the park project, which has been in the works for 12 years, is a win-win for residents and businesses in the area.
“It was a long time coming, but we knew we needed to bite the bullet and get this done,” he says. “We are finding that a park like this is a big selling point.”
Originally, the seven-acre green space at the terminus of brick-paved West Church Avenue and bordered by West Warren Avenue to the south, offered two baseball fields, a pavilion, and scattered playground equipment. Racquetball, tennis, and basketball courts rounded out the serviceable – if uninspiring – list of amenities. Opening this month, the new Reiter Park has gone from serviceable to sensational. Only the basketball and tennis courts remain; every other square inch of the park has been totally reimagined, and the results are spectacular.
By You, For You
Suggestions from the public and surveys of other popular parks showed that Reiter Park had fallen behind the times. There was a lack of seating, good lighting, shade, walking paths, and views. The space needed defined borders and multiple entrances. Diversity was absent; many age groups and lifestyles were not being addressed.
“We did not have a lot of amenities that others do to attract people,” admits Tom.
The Longwood staff’s due diligence paid off. The new Reiter Park now offers something for everyone, regardless of age. What makes Reiter Park truly special is how the design caters to the city’s multiple target audiences.
Now, visitors will find newly paved basketball and tennis courts, exercise equipment, a new children’s playground and splash pad, a walking path traversing through the grounds, a raised boardwalk over the park’s lake, and a fishing dock.
Local history buffs will love the clone of the original 3,500-year-old Senator bald cypress tree, the tallest and oldest bald cypress tree in the world that was destroyed by fire in 2012.
Reiter Park now boasts five pavilions for picnicking and shade, a tranquility garden with misting fountains, and an amphitheater that will serve multiple purposes.
Chris Capizzi, Longwood’s director of leisure services, says the City also plans to move many of its events to the new park and will continue to host its annual Easter Egg Hunt and Halloween party there. Recurring events, including family movie night, will be a part of the allure, as well. And there has been discussion about bringing the Longwood Farmers Market to Reiter Park.
The pièce de résistance of the modern-day Reiter Park is the multi-use amphitheater and event lawn space that will feature concerts and other shows.
Chris says the event lawn for the main stage can seat up to 1,000 people. He envisions hosting the philharmonic orchestra one day and newer music for the younger set the next.
Chris explains the back portion of the amphitheater, facing the lake, offers more intimate space, which is perfect for seminars, meetings, and weddings. That setting accommodates up to 200 guests.
Because the park is located a short stroll from the Longwood SunRail station, people from throughout the Central Florida area will be able to take advantage of the variety of stage performances and events. Chris believes that if and when SunRail begins to operate later in the evening and on weekends, the amphitheater could become the go-to event and entertainment venue in Seminole County.
“We want to turn this into a destination, a place people come from far away to enjoy,” Chris says.
Beyond the leisure and tourism benefits, there is hope the revitalized park will help spur more development in the area.
“It’s a huge project for us and for the nearby homes and apartments,” says Tom, “and a new draw for retail and entertainment venues.”
The Grand Opening of Reiter Park is on Saturday, September 15.
Community parade starts at noon. Ribbon cutting at 12:15 p.m. Live music from 12:30-9:15 p.m.
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