Ground Broken on Maritime Park

Written by Thyrie Bland

It rained off and on Thursday threatening the groundbreaking ceremony for the Vince Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park. But by the time the ceremony began at 5:30 p.m., the sky was partly cloudy, and the bright sunshine was nearly blinding. "We have a three star admiral and a former mayor in charge of the weather," Mayor Mike Wiggins quipped. The park is named after the late Pensacola mayor and will feature a museum named for the late Vice Adm. Jack Fetterman. A few hundred people gathered on the park's site - 30 acres along Main Street in downtown Pensacola -- for Wednesday's ceremony.

Work will begin on the $40 million park project today. Along with the museum, the park will feature a ballpark for the Pensacola Pelicans, a mult-use area that will feature events, such as concerts, and an ampitheater. Wiggins said Wednesday was the most momentous and exciting day in Pensacola's history. He said among the positive things that the park will do for Pensacola is bring thousands of jobs and new business projects. "Folks, this is going to be good for everyone of us," the mayor told the crowd. "No doubt." The Rev. Wayne Woodard agreed. "Man, this is the linchpin to change Pensacola's future," said Woodard, who is helping with the sports museum for the park. "What this project is going to do is it's going to keep people here."

Lacey Collier, Community Maritime Park Associates chairman, acknowledged how tough it has been bringing the project to fruition. The project has experienced some delays, and there has been some financial concerns. "It has been a long, bumpy, rocky, torturous, road to get us to this day," Collier said.

What's next?

A 1,600 foot long security fence will be built along the site for the Vince Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park. Workers will begin clearing the site of trees and brush next week.