The resurrection of Waterloo Park has been a while in coming. Closed in 2011 for what would turn out to be an extensive renovation that includes the addition of a major performance space, the popular public park and work thereon has sometimes been overlooked in the past decade. Surrounded as it was by the frenzied development of Dell Medical School and Center and work on the state Capitol complex—not to mention dwarfed by the many tall, shiny baubles that have arisen in nearby downtown over the past 10 years— for a long stretch, the project looked from the outside like an eternal dust cloud behind a big wooden fence.

Finally, though, the wait is tantalizingly close to over. On Monday, Waterloo Greenway Conservancy (the project’s overseeing nonprofit) announced that the park, along with the brand-new Moody Amphitheater, will officially reopen in August. Greenway representatives did not announce an exact date, but tickets are already on sale for one concert—Glass Animals' "Dreamland Tour"—to take place there September 12.

Courtesy of Waterloo ConservancyWaterloo Park

For those who are still into that kind of thing, most of the future events in the park will probably not replicate the affable, dusty affairs held in the Waterloo Park of yesteryear: Fun Fun Fun Fest, Spamarama, or the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival. What’s replacing that vibe, though, is a gorgeous outdoor space with an impressive, well-integrated performance area more suited to both the revitalization of Waller Creek, which runs through it, and to the needs and wants of present-day Austin.

Going green(er)

The 11-acre park, located between 12th and 15th streets along Red River Street, will feature spaces meant to reflect the landscapes of Austin and Central Texas: Hill Country gardens with oaks and native plants, wetland spaces, large lawns, and more than a mile and a half of trails. It also includes a great lawn, a Family Pavilion with food trucks, and gender-neutral bathrooms designed by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture. A public-private partnership between the city and the conservancy, the $88 million project was designed by a team led by New York-based architecture firm Thomas Phifer and Partners and landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, based in Brooklyn, New York, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

In addition to the hundreds of trees (including live oaks, which characterized the old park, and four heritage trees moved from different parts of the city), it features 900 plants from 170 different species, three rain gardens and a rainwater collection system, irrigation from Waller Creek, and reclaimed water flowing through the toilets. Or, as Austin Mayor Steve Adler put it: “The reopening of this space will provide the community reimagined play spaces, relaxing leisure areas, and build upon Austin’s offerings of some of the greatest outdoor live events in the nation. Waterloo Park will serve as a symbol of inclusivity and resilience through nature, history, community, culture and the arts.” 

Courtesy of Waterloo ConservancyWaterloo Park

The cultural context of the location, parts of which were a low-income neighborhood of mixed ethnicities and bulldozed and turned into a park as part of the notorious “urban renewal” programs of the 1960s and 1970s, is addressed somewhat in its revitalization. “The reopening of Waterloo Park represents a bridge between Austin’s past, present and future,” said Kathy Miller, interim CEO of Waterloo Greenway. “We’re honoring the culture of the area, while building a place that is a vital part of what Austin will become. Visitors to the park will see historical details like the park’s original retaining walls in the Hill Country Gardens, scribed with hand-written notes that date back to the 1970s. The preservation of heritage live oak trees throughout the park is a nod to its history, and we look forward to launching new community programming to ensure all feel welcome in this inclusive and equitable space.”

The Moody Amphitheater

Arguably the park’s new centerpiece, the Moody Amphitheater was designed by Phifer. Its massive roof was inspired by the art of Agnes Martin, according to Waterloo Greenway’s site, and is intended to “mimic the shade canopies of nature and cast rippling, tree-like shadows onto the ground beneath it.” It features 16 layers of steel, aluminum, and glass to create the effect and is held up by custom-built steel trusses, with hundreds of steel pieces filling the gaps between them as well as smaller spaces within the structure. 

Moody AmphitheaterCourtesy of Waterloo Conservancy

The amphitheater was built into the landscape of the park and, while it is able to accommodate large-scale productions, will be open to the public when it’s not hosting events. During events, its 38,000-square-foot Great Lawn can accommodate up to 5,000 attendees, with 3,000 on the lower section and 2,000 on the upper lawn.

Live Nation Entertainment and C3 Presents will produce the shows offered at the amphitheater, and, through an exclusive agreement among the promoters, Waterloo Park, and Waterloo Greenway, will offer 100 free tickets to every concert, to be distributed through a lottery.