Higher tax revenues, a tight job market, and new industry and retail: Amid so much wider economic uncertainty nationwide, the city of Cullman enjoyed a 2022 that typified its past resilience through previous turbulent times.

City leadership experienced changes last year, with the passing of longtime Cullman City Council member Andy Page and the retirement of even longer-serving city police chief Kenny Culpepper. But steadiness amid change marked a post-COVID year that saw public events return to Cullman’s active recreational calendar, with new park developments providing perhaps the highest-profile signal that municipal life aimed to achieve a renewed sense of stability.

Cullman’s public park amenities already had a recent rack record of expansion, but last year came with a big boost to Cullman Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism’s active offerings. The city opened the gates to a $10 million addition at its newly-consolidated park and rec area in south Cullman, courtesy of the new WildWater outdoor aquatic park on an expanse of property adjacent to the Cullman Wellness & Aquatic Center (CWACS).

Conceived as a regional attraction for both out-of-town visitors as well as for repeat-visit locals, the water park is home to a 22,000 square-foot wave pool, as well as a dedicated kids’ area and nearly a dozen themed thrill slides and slower-paced attractions for all ages.

City leaders finally revealed detailed plans for Cullman’s long-in-the-making civic center replacement last year, showing off renderings and accommodation information for the under-construction event complex that will anchor the newly-christened Cullman Sports and Event District. Sited near the Cullman Wellness and Aquatic Center, the new multipurpose facility will be housed in a 130,000-square-foot building near WildWater park across Main Avenue from Heritage Park.

The complex will feature 10 basketball courts, 19 volleyball courts, a mixed-use floor area designed and automated to swiftly accommodate events of all sizes (up to a maximum attendance of 6,500 people), plus four breakout side rooms (designed to be reconfigured into a total of eight).

Located at the Maine Avenue property formerly occupied by Marvin’s home improvement, the city’s new facility will replace the former Cullman Civic Center, which the city sold to Desperation Church four years ago. As part of last year’s detailed reveal, the parks department branded the entire surrounding public park area as a gigantic unified Sports and Event District that spans the entire 140-acre public footprint stretching from Heritage Park to Margaret Ingle Park.

Big parks weren’t the only new Cullman attractions in 2022: The city also cut the ribbon on Skate Depot, its first-ever skatepark, located at the north end of town on land between the city police department and Depot Park. The new park features a drop-in bowl plus smaller vertical features for ramp riders, as well as wedges, rails, and more environmental obstacles aimed at street riders — whether they’re on skateboards, BMX bikes, blades, or beyond.

Benjamin Bullard can be reached by phone at 256-734-2131 ext. 234.

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