EAST PROVIDENCE — All of the interested parties seem to be in agreement on how to best pursue immediate action to improve the entertainment and victualling value at the Crescent Park/Looff …
EAST PROVIDENCE — All of the interested parties seem to be in agreement on how to best pursue immediate action to improve the entertainment and victualling value at the Crescent Park/Looff Carousel following a discussion on the topic at the February 7 meeting of the City Council.
The three members in attendance — At-Large Bob Rodericks, Ward 1’s Frank Rego and Ward 4’s Rick Lawson, the latter the representative of the district where the carousel is situated — backed a plan suggested by the Carousel Commission and presented by site manager Tracy Johnson.
The aim for the upcoming 2023 season is to have a concrete pad installed at the site, which would at least allow for the procurement of a tent and for the carousel to host events of some size.
The council expressed a desire for the process to be initiated. It was discussed whether or not a request for proposal process, RFP, for the pad was necessary, however it was agreed the Department of Public Works-Highway Division could properly perform the installation. The only outside expense would be purchasing the concrete.
(Updated, corrected, February 8, 12:15 p.m.) Reached after the meeting for further comment, Lawson said, "Building the concession building and laying a pad for a large event tent will allow us to generate revenue at Crescent Park to help offset the cost of maintaining the carousel. I believe there is so much more we can be doing to fully utilize Crescent Park. This is a great first step."
He continued, "We don't need a RFP for the pad. The city can do that. Highway department has the ability to lay the pad as do sidewalks so the have the skills and requirement to lay a concrete pad. We will also look at level grading the area so there may be a little more to the scope of work."
In a related note from the meeting, Lawson was approved by his peers for appointment to the Carousel Commission. Johnson later said there are about 10 openings on the body and that the commission would soon be seeking new members to fill the vacancies.
Back to the main topic, as Johnson explained, of an existing $525,000 set aside by the city for improvements to the carousel grounds, some has been appropriated for the concrete pad.
The pad, as originally discussed by the previous council in October 2019, was to be 110-feet x 100-feet. It’s initial intention was to serve as the base of an ice skating rink in the winter. The rink itself was part of a complete skating operation, including boards, a “Zamboni” resurfacing machine and rental skates, the city purchased at a discounted rate of around $100,000 back in 2018.
Johnson said last week, however, the Carousel Commission, on which she sits as well, was “in favor” and “in agreement” to hold off on installing the entire pad intended for the ice rink as it is “not a priority” at this time.
Instead, Johnson said the preferred route would be to cut the size of the pad in half, noting if the rink does come to fruition in the future the other half of the pad could be easily installed. She explained the desired size of the pad at the moment would accommodate a 40-foot x 100-foot tent which allow for the carousel to host large scale events and weddings.
The manager continued, saying if the pad was put into place the carousel could start renting out the space in the spring. In addition, the existing building could be used by caterers as an staging area with access to electricity.
Added Lawson, "I will be pushing the city administration to put it on their calendar so we know when it can be done. The carousel commission is looking at purchasing the tent so realistically things could be up and running this June."
The skating rink, again, was part of a larger rehabilitation plan for the carousel grounds that has stalled in recent years.
The idea has been to construct an all-encompassing building that would house the carousel operations office, restrooms, garages/storage spaces and a new concession stand.
The project has run in fits and starts, at times not having enough money to move forward or not meeting standards set by the Rhode Island Historical Society for the historic nature of the site.
The city had gone so far as to agree on the terms of a lease with long-time concessionaire Blount Seafood and to build the kitchen to its specifications, though like the project in general that was put on hold awaiting for the necessary funding and approvals.
Johnson explained the current drawings for the building were “very plain” and “basic” consisting of a mere “four walls and a roof.” The other costs, such as the creation of the aforementioned offices, restrooms, commercial kitchen and small interior dining area, can’t be determined until a complete set of plans are drawn and eventually approved by the RIHS.
Johnson said the Carousel Commission next plans to hire an architect to do just that. Once finished, the commission would then send the latest drawings to the RIHS for review so the ensuing steps can then be taken.