Believe it or not, Klyde Warren Park is about to celebrate its first anniversary. The deck park on top of Woodall Rodgers Freeway had been a dream for so long that it's a little hard to get used to it being a reality.
But Klyde Warren's first year has not been without some turmoil. Mark Banta resigned as president of park just three months after it opened. Park officials took their time finding a suitable replacement, finally settling on Tara Green in May 2013, who officially started in June.
Green sat down with us to talk about her experience so far, what we can expect in the future and what's in store for the anniversary celebration.
CultureMap Dallas: You’ve been on the job for a little more than four months. How is it going so far?
Tara Green: It’s wonderful. I have truly enjoyed the time that I’ve been here at the park. I’ve learned a lot; I’ve realized I have lot more to learn.
I spent the last 20-plus years in the sports industry, and I was a little hesitant about leaving that world behind to come into the park world. But the more I’m here, the more similarities I find, which has really been great and very helpful, and also very rewarding.
CM: Completing Savor was obviously the biggest thing on your to-do list. How do you think it fits with the current Dallas restaurant scene?
TG: We love it. We are so proud of our partners at F2M and what they have accomplished with their creative menu and the beautiful décor on the inside. As a park, we are exceedingly proud of the Thomas Phifer-designed space – the glass building, the beautifully paneled roof. We think it just fits in perfectly with the whole park experience, and it truly comes alive at night.
To see the reflection of the trees that are all wrapped in white lights in all the polished surface around Savor, as well as the Muse Family Pavilion, it’s just magical. I hope everybody in Dallas will get a chance to come down and see it at night at some point.
CM: Do you feel the park has lived up to its potential so far?
TG: I really do. From an attendance standpoint, we’re going to surpass our millionth attendee this year. What I was told is they were projecting around 700,000 in the first year, and we exceeded that before I even got here. Attendance has been phenomenal.
Now, a lot of factors go into that, including it being the first year of operation. It’s the shiny new toy in town, and we don’t want to lose that honeymoon glow. But it’s really programming that sets Klyde Warren Park apart. We were very intentional and thoughtful about creating free programs to drive attendance on a daily basis.
We know that spring and fall are the busiest times of year for the park, and that’s natural because that’s our best weather climate in this community. We’re so pleased that we didn’t see huge drop-offs in the winter and the summer. We saw some dips, but nothing that led us to believe that we can’t create programming even in the winter and the summer as well. We can truly be a year-round facility.
CM: Do you see any significant changes in the type of programming or anything else that you might bring to the park?
TG: We always want to grow, we always want to improve, we always want to keep offering creative new things. So what we have been doing as a staff is looking at the research that we’ve gathered throughout the year. Which of our programs across the board are doing better than others? Are there things that we can do to enhance the programs that might not have the same regular attendance?
What we have found is that consistency is key. If you start a program and you do it for two or three weeks and you only get 10-20 people there, it doesn’t mean the program isn’t successful; it means it just hasn’t caught on yet. So our challenge is to continue to build that program calendar.
We don’t want to leave anything that we’ve done in the past; we want to build on it going forward so that we’re always reinventing the park for the community.
CM: Are there any kinds of events you would like to see the park host that it currently doesn’t offer?
TG: We’re working on a movie series. We’d love to create an ongoing series – maybe six movies in the fall, six movies in the spring. There’s been a lot of talk about a skating rink. At some point, that’s going to be great amenity for downtown.
I would love to see a holiday market in the coming years and really create a festival environment during the winter and the holiday times for the community.
CM: Do you have any kind of timeline for the ice skating rink or is it just TBD?
TG: That’s TBD because there are a lot of moving parts that are in motion right now, and we’re just waiting for a lot of stuff to get finalized so that we can come out and say, “Here’s when it’s going to be and where.”
CM: Your big anniversary celebration starts Friday, October 25. What are you most excited about for the weekend?
TG: On Friday, we’re really excited to do the very first simulcast with the Dallas Opera. On opening night of Carmen, you can come to the park, bring a blanket and a picnic, buy a glass of wine from Relish, and enjoy Carmen for free. There’s going to be a Carmen costume contest at about 6:30 pm before the opera gets going. Bring your pets; it’s going to be a great, fun night and unique way to experience the opera.
CM: Have you done any kind of testing for the Carmen simulcast yet?
TG: We have been doing that for the last several weeks. There have been tests, and tests of tests and redundancy plans in place. I am really excited about this.
I cannot wait to see this huge big screen that’s going to be flown off the front of the Muse Family Pavilion. The sound is going be incredible. You’re going to feel like you’re in the Winspear Opera House watching opening night of Carmen, except you don’t have to be in black tie. You can just come in your best park casual wear.