We’ve been diligently watching progress made throughout construction of the new Campus Park, once the “home” for auxiliary parking for events at Santa Ana Star Center, namely high school graduations.

Truth be told, it wasn’t that great of a parking lot. Today, though, it’s a vibrant, quality-of-life amenity for the city.

Last Sunday, in the city’s annual — save for 2020 — Independence Day celebration, Campus Park was the host, with concerts by the 44th Army Band and the New Mexico Philharmonic, followed by fireworks. We hope traffic after the event will flow better next time, but the music, fireworks and venue were great.

“I couldn’t be happier to celebrate its opening with an unrestricted event,” Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull said recently in a press release about the park’s debut.

The state had just re-opened July 1 to 100 percent capacity, and, although it’s hard to judge the capacity of a park, let’s say people packed in and didn’t have to sit 6 feet apart.

Hull said the park will be “a hub of connectivity and will serve as a gathering place for everyone at City Center … home to local government, health-care facilities, higher education institutions, entertainment and private-sector employers.”

Think of your son or daughter, taking classes at University of New Mexico Health Sciences Rio Rancho or Central New Mexico Community College and doing homework under a tree during a break — or a City Hall staffer or even, once a path connects UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center with City Hall, a nurse or doctor relaxing there.

“This is just the first event, and I don’t think we’ve begun to realize the potential of this venue as we pair it up with the events center and have after-hours parties or food festivals and other festivals,” Hull said. “When I talk about culture, this can be used as a performing arts center — to do Shakespeare in the Park (for example).”

“It’s so wonderful to see everyone out here celebrating the Fourth of July out here at Campus Park,” said City Councilor Karissa Culbreath. “I’m just really proud of the way the city has responded to the pandemic, how the city partnered to make this a vaccination site, right here at the Rio Rancho Events Center. … I think this is the start of something amazing.”

Hull said he was elated with the turnout, predicting the Fourth of July Parade will be back in 2022 at City Center. Loma Colorado Park doesn’t have enough parking for large-scale events, he said, but Campus Park does.

Campus Park has more parking than any other city park, with huge lots at the events center, City Hall and HP, and although Haynes Park has Campus Park beat for shade — it’s got a 50-year head start.

And this is just Phase 1 of the park, now about 6 acres, with Phase 2 down the road.

We agree with Councilor Culbreath: This is the start of something amazing.

Check it out.