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Bandstand next step in face-lift for New Ken's Memorial Park

| Thursday, May 2, 2013, 1:46 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center welding students, from left, Dakota Palyszeski of New Kensington-Arnold, Jake McGuire of Freeport Area, and Chris Smith and R.J. Ament, both of Kiski Area, begin tearing down the old acoustic ceiling tiles and insulation at the bandshell in Memorial Park in New Kensington on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Students from several vocational trades will work on the three-week project to refurbish the structure, built in 1967.

It was fitting that the renovation of the Memorial Park bandstand in New Kensington began on May Day, a holiday that traditionally heralds spring renewal.

The city's premier park has had its own renewal this spring, with a new bridge, central pavilion and restroom facility all installed within the last month.

The aging bandstand, bearing a dedication plaque from 1967, is next in line for a facelift.

Seven welding students from Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center were on site Wednesday morning, ripping down the acoustic ceiling tiles and insulation above the stage and chipping away at deteriorating cement.

Jeremy Dawson, a welding instructor at the vo-tech, said in the coming weeks:

• Students from the New Kensington-based school's carpentry program will replace the ceiling and fascia boards along the roof's gables.

• Masonry students will replace cement caps atop the brick banisters.

• Art students will give the stage a fresh coat of paint.

Because no welding is needed for the project, Dawson's welding students were tasked with demolition.

Vo-tech students completed a similar community project at Vandergrift's Davis Field last year, Dawson said.

“It allows the kids to get an authentic feel of what a real job site is like,” Dawson said. “It works out really well for the community and for the kids.”

Dawson said the school was approached by the organizers of the New Ken/Arnold Social in the Park, which last year raised about $3,000 for the bandstand project.

Cindy Downard of Lower Burrell said the social outings at Memorial Park began in 2011 when Rob Greb of Apollo suggested that a group of New Kensington and Arnold natives who chatted on Facebook should get together.

They raised a few hundred dollars during the first social and donated the money to the city for the restoration of the restrooms, which had been destroyed in an arson in 2010.

Greb died last year, but the group continued to meet and raise money. Another social is planned at Memorial Park in September, and the group will host a benefit concert fundraiser for Arnold's Roosevelt Park later this month.

“We all grew up here, we all played in both parks,” Downard said. “I hope this becomes something we can keep going between us and the cities and the schools and the community.”

Downard said the group is considering next raising money to improve other pavilions at Memorial Park.

New Kensington Mayor Tom Guzzo said city officials appreciate the efforts of the Social in the Park group and the vo-tech.

“We were already looking to repair it and renovate it,” Guzzo said of the bandstand. “This was the perfect opportunity.

“The most important thing is, while it's great for the city, it's also great for the vo-tech,” Guzzo added. “It gives them an opportunity to practice what they're learning. And from a cost perspective, it won't cost as much. They do great work.”

“I'm glad we're helping out the community,” said Tyler Rogers, an 11th-grade welding student from the Kiski Area School District.

Rogers said he appreciates the opportunity to work at a site.

“It's pretty labor-intensive,” he said of Wednesday's work. “But I've done worse.”

Guzzo said the $3,000 raised by the Social in the Park will cover the cost of the bandstand work, which includes professional electricians rewiring the facility.

The replacement of the entrance bridge, restrooms and central pavilion, which cost a total of about $173,000, was covered through insurance money from the fire damage as well as federal Community Development Block Grant money, Guzzo said.

He said the city is pursuing grants and other funding to improve the tennis courts and playground area.

“Things are really taking shape at the park,” he said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680

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