SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Nine months after it was destroyed by a mysterious fire in late March 2017, the playground structure at Armstrong Park is nearing renovation.
"It's going to be a nice thing," said C. Thomas Vogt, who lives next to the Santa Maria park. "I think it's well worth the cost of money that it's going to cost the city to put it back together."
The longtime area resident has lived in the community near Fesler Junior High School for forty years and witnessed the playground burn down.
"I saw a really bright light from my bedroom window and it surprised me," said Vogt. "It was a tragic thing to see."
After seeing the park sit quiet for months, Vogt said he's ready for kids to once again fill the popular playground.
"This has been a major place for them to be because it's very busy," Vogt said. "I don't mind the noise because the kids are doing what they need to do, play."
Last month, the City began renovations at the park. After a few weeks of construction, completion is now only about two weeks away.
Once it's done, the new structure will be bring back memories of the old one, which was the largest and tallest in the entire city.
"The playground does look very similar to what was here in the past," said Santa Maria management analyst Dennis Smitherman. "We have some new panels and structures and we're all up to safety code and now we're just working on getting the base level completed."
Like the old structure, the new one is also brightly colored and features slides, swings and other fun activities.
In addition, there is a secondary structure that is aimed for children as young as two years old.
"What we've been able to do is work this manufacturer of the original playground to re-create the parts that were missing and were destroyed in the fire," said Smitherman.
The rebuild here at Armstrong Park is just the latest in a handful of park renovations across Santa Maria. The enhancements are giving added recreational opportunities for thousands of kids in the city.
"We have Grogan Park that just recently reopened in the last couple of weeks. We have Buena Vista Park, which is undergoing about a $1.4 million park renovation and that's going to be open before summer 2018 and then we have this park," said Smitherman.
Smitherman adds funding for the renovations is about $100,000, which are being paid through generous community donations and grant funding.
No exact date of completion has been announced, but the park is expected to be be open sometime in mid-January.