Cotton Palace Park Master Plan

Photo of Cotton Palace Park.

The Cotton Palace Park Redevelopment Master Plan initiative is underway to work with the community to establish a guiding vision for much needed redevelopment of one of Waco’s most unique parks.

The City has engaged Walker Partners as its primary consultant, who together with RBDR, DCBA, and IES will help craft a new vision that reflects the community’s needs and maximizes this crucial park space. 

Project Overview


Establish a park improvement concept and development strategy that will serve as a guide for future budgeting, design, and construction of Cotton Palace Park.


1. Establish a community vision for a great park that:

  • Meets/exceeds Waco’s park development standards
  • Maximizes the park’s capacity to serve a growing neighborhood and anticipates increased use from Downtown
  • Improves park connectivity and access
  • Draws from the park’s rich layers of cultural and natural history to enrich the character of improvements

2. Provide necessary study and analysis of existing conditions and corresponding regulatory implications

3. Identify strategies for funding, design, and phased development

Project Timeline

Phase 1:

  • Data Gathering & Analysis

Phase 2:

  • Public Engagement

Phase 3:

  • Concept Development

Phase 4:

  • Review, Approval, Adoption

Historical Background

A Storied History

While Cotton Palace Park has been a municipal park since 1910, it actually began serving the community in a private capacity as Padgitt’s Park in 1894. Corresponding with a geyser boom, this was an exciting time in Waco’s history and led to the rise of spas, natatoriums, and health tourism – including Padgitt’s Park.

Meanwhile, like many communities across the country, Waco took note of the massively successful 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. An idea was born to develop and use the park to bring that kind of attention to Waco, via the 1894 Texas Cotton Palace Exposition – hosted on behalf of the entire state. Through its many iterations, the exposition remained successful into the 1930s, and managed to cement its legacy of wonder in the minds of generations of Wacoans. The site once held grand exposition halls, ornate grounds, rides, roller coasters, and grandstands. Visitors flocked from near and far to take in the marvels of technology, industry, and entertainment including early aviation, parachuting, and auto racing.

Following the close of the fair, the park took on a variety of new uses. It was home to Baylor University’s baseball and football programs until the development of Floyd Casey Stadium. Portions of the Kate Ross housing development took shape on the site. Later development included the creation of Cesar Chavez Middle School’s campus and support for a childcare facility.  The City of Waco operated a public pool, established neighborhood park features, as well as a multi-field softball complex.

Today, the park’s neighborhood playground and other features have exceeded their useful lifespans and are ready for redevelopment and reconnection. The park’s service area extends into Waco’s growing downtown and the surrounding neighborhood has also grown considerably, making this park land increasingly vital to meeting the community’s recreation needs. Now is a great time to plan for the park’s future and to continue its storied history of serving the community.