LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Twenty-three years ago, we had to point to a drawing on a poster board as to what the Great Lawn was going to look like. I was there updating our viewers in November of 1994, the first month of construction. Over my 30 years here at WHAS, I’ve been fortunate to cover every step of this park that saved downtown and changed our city. I covered some of the very first meetings.
In 1994, the city was clearing out several sand company buildings that once dominated our waterfront. The public had no public access to the river, except for the Belvedere. There were oil companies and a scrap yard down there as well. Back then, the Falls Fountain, donated by the Binghams, was still in the river and running!
The Waterfront Development Corporation, which just passed the new $3 parking fee, was created in 1986. It was designed to be separate from Metro Parks for a reason. City leaders knew that asking Metro Parks to maintain the huge Waterfront Park would be too big of a task. WDC is funded separately and has a staff of 9. Their staff maintains the park, plans the West Louisville expansion, and continues fundraising.
To start Phase One of construction in the 90’s, $14 million in private donations came in, matched by $12.5 million from the state of Kentucky.
Since then funding has been cut.
The Great Lawn opened in a grand ceremony in 1998.