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Gazette Premium Content Royal Gorge and Park to close as final repairs are made before holiday weekend reopening

photo - Crews work on the new visitor's center at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. After Sunday, the park will be closed to guests and is tentatively scheduled to reopen on Saturday, Aug. 30. Stephen Hobbs, the Gazette + caption
Crews work on the new visitor's center at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. After Sunday, the park will be closed to guests and is tentatively scheduled to reopen on Saturday, Aug. 30. Stephen Hobbs, the Gazette
By Stephen Hobbs Updated: August 10, 2014 at 7:50 am

CAÑON CITY - The Royal Gorge and Park will close to the public starting Monday as final repairs and construction begin.

The attraction is tentatively set to reopen again at the end of the month.

Ram Kumar and his wife just finished a tour of the park and gorge Saturday and had checked out the view from the former site of the firehouse, which is now an observation deck.

A light breeze swirled near the deck and the screams of people riding the Royal Rush Skycoaster across the gorge, could be heard in the distance.

He said it was his "fourth or fifth" time at the park and that he enjoyed the view points on the opposite side of the gorge. Although they lived in Denver, Kumar said he wanted to check out the park before it closed.

Mike Bandera, vice president and general manager of the park, said the closures will allow more time for construction workers to landscape and lay asphalt and free up all personnel to help complete the job.

Sunday is the last day to take a guided tour before the park is closed. Tours last from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are $10.

"We're excited and pushing very hard," Bandera said. "We want to take it back to what it once was."

The park, located in Cañon City, is undergoing multiple phases of revitalization after a fire burned more than 3,200 acres it in June 2013.

Forty-eight of the 52 buildings in the park were destroyed, including a firehouse and visitor center, but the Royal Gorge Bridge did not suffer major damage.

Now, adjacent to the bridge, construction crews are finishing up work on a new visitors center. Many of the Royal Gorge attractions are scheduled to open to the public on a daily basis on Aug. 30.

The opening of a 14,000-square foot visitor's center is the first phase of construction to help return the park to its former state. Bandera said additional projects will be added, including a 5,000-seat amphitheater set to open next spring.

Cañon City Mayor Tony Greer said the restaurant inside the visitor's center will be worth the wait. The plan is for it to be open year-round and be a benefit to "local people as well as tourists."

Park admission is not required to go to the restaurant, he said.

The park reopened in March to visitors for weekends and holidays, Bandera said. An official grand opening for the park is scheduled for next May.

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Contact Stephen Hobbs: 636-0115

Twitter @bystephenhobbs

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