Article by ALICE MARY HERDEN
Renovations and upgrades at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park caused the closure of park in early February. Three main attractions are in the process of renovations: the Mermaid Show, Wildlife Show and the River Boat Tours. The renovations and upgrades are intended to provide additional safety for both visitors and staff.
“We want to make sure we can provide the safest journey for our guests to get from one place to another,” said John Athanason Marketing & PR Manager for Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Athanson has been working at the park for 17 years.
The wooden bridge, also under construction, is the first stop for many visitors who enter the park. They glance over the rail to see the beautiful koi fish and turtles swimming in the pond. The popular Weeki Wachee peacocks graze alongside.
During the renovation process, The Mermaid Theatre interior was completely gutted and the seating is being refurbished. An important factor in the renovation process is managing to upgrade while not losing that nostalgic feel many visitors look forward to.
Since the Mermaid Theatre is historic, there are no significant architectural changes being made. A recent roofing restoration project (2015) removed the shingled roof to reveal the theatre’s historic clamshell roof which had been covered for over thirty years according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Athanason recalls how they realized what was underneath that shingled roof, “We discovered the clamshell roof was still in existence when we were able to take a peek through a hole on one side of the theater.”
The park’s reopening date is projected to be around April 19. Buccaneer Bay will reopen March 15 in time for Spring Break. However, the number of people allowed in the park will decrease. As Athanason explained, lowering the capacity is there for two reasons: first to limit the environmental impact and second to increase the enjoyment of park visitors.
It’s a great thing for this park that people are rediscovering this old historic attraction,” Athanason said. “When this is all said and done, people will be pleasantly surprised.”
The Florida Park Service released a renovation master plan for Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in 2014 with approximately $8.7 million of improvements.