PRESS RELEASE: $22 Million Public-Private Partnership Kicks Off Next Phase of Centennial Park Renovations

September 9, 2016

“Picture Your Park” campaign launched to invite community to participate in park improvements

Nashville, Tenn. (September 9, 2016) – Mayor Megan Barry, along with the Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park and Metro Parks, today announced that a second phase of Centennial Park renovations is set to begin thanks to $22 million of public and private funding. The new project will focus on some of the most prominently-used features of the park – the Great Lawn, the band shell and the area surrounding Lake Watauga. Planning for the new improvements is underway, with construction expected to begin in fall 2017.

“During a time of extraordinary growth in our city, it is more important than ever that we remain responsible stewards of our most iconic landmarks, including Centennial Park,” said Mayor Barry. “Centennial Park is a center of culture and community enjoyed by all, and over the decades its popularity has caused it to become worn. Now, thanks to an extraordinary public/private partnership, we are positioned to move forward with the second phase of the park’s renovation. Tomorrow’s Centennial Park will be a remarkably beautiful place that will elevate all of the vibrant activity that already takes place there, and it will be designed to withstand the city’s growth for generations to come.”

The $22 million in funding includes $5 million in Mayor Barry’s approved 2016-2017 capital spending plan, another $10 million subject to approval by Metro Council over the next two years, as well as generous private-sector support secured through the Conservancy from private citizens and local corporations, including HCA. In conjunction with today’s announcement, the Nashville-based healthcare corporation and Centennial Park neighbor announced a $5 million commitment for park improvements.

"As an organization that has grown up across the street from Centennial Park, HCA has long enjoyed the benefits of this historic Nashville property,” said HCA Chairman and CEO Milton Johnson. “It has been a place for both rest and recreation for many of our colleagues through the nearly 50 years of our development. Our commitment of $5 million is to help ensure the park will continue to serve the needs of Nashvillians for generations to come, and it is our sincere hope that others will follow our example and lend their support to this effort."

The announcement follows the June 2015 completion of an initial phase of the Centennial Park Master Plan, which included the daylighting of Cockrill Spring near the West End entrance of the park, a permanent outdoor performance venue for Musicians Corner, the cleaning of Lake Watauga, and a reorganization of the roadways and parking around the Parthenon.

In the new phase, the soil and drainage of the five-acre Great Lawn, the heart of Centennial Park, will be re-engineered to allow the park to recover more quickly after big events and significant rain. Two million visitors a year now enjoy Centennial Park, with some weekend events attracting as many as 50,000 attendees. Re-engineering the lawn will reduce visible wear and tear, and help better accommodate the growing park crowds.

Another major component of the new project will include re-lighting the Parthenon, emphasizing the iconic structure’s elegance and beauty. Nashvillians of all ages will enjoy a new nightly ritual of seeing the Parthenon come alive under the lights each evening at dusk. Subsequent project components include updating the area surrounding the bandshell, and transforming the edges of Lake Watauga with native landscaping and a new trail system.

“Our parks and green spaces are among the city’s most important and utilized treasures, and Centennial Park is the crown jewel of our entire parks system,” said Christy Smith, board chair for the Metropolitan Department of Parks and Recreation. “Centennial Park has been a well-loved center of history, culture, and artistic activity in Nashville for over a century, but it desperately needs our attention. Now we are able to take the next step in making Centennial Park a 21st century greenspace that welcomes and endures community activity for the next hundred years.”

As the new work is set to begin, The Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park, a nonprofit organization that generates private support for the park, is also launching “Picture Your Park,” a public campaign designed to invite citizens to participate in the park’s transformation. Through the campaign website,, and the Conservancy’s social media channels, Picture Your Park aims to encourage Nashvillians to imagine how they might use the Centennial Park of the future, share their experiences online and make financial contributions.

“We’ve already seen the transformative effects of the initial phase of park improvements, and I am confident that with the support of Nashville’s generous and welcoming community, we can ensure our park is preserved for generations to come,” said Paula Van Slyke, board chair for the Conservancy. “Whether you exercise daily in the park, remember coming here as a child, or are new to Nashville and have only recently discovered it, this is your space and we want to invite you to join us in celebrating Centennial Park, and participate in securing its future.”

The execution of the Centennial Park Master Plan is being led by internationally-renowned landscape architect firm, Nelson Byrd Woltz (NBW), whose work includes the Peggy Guggenheim Sculpture Garden in Venice, Italy, the National Arboretum of New Zealand, Google Corporate Headquarters in northern California, and Hudson Yards in New York City.

Centennial Park was first created to hold the Centennial Exposition of 1897, a six-month event that brought nearly 2 million people to Nashville. Centennial Park was not only the start of Nashville’s municipal park system, but park systems across the state.