Marietta mulls different options for rec center
by Noreen Cochran
January 05, 2013 12:00 AM | 2446 views | 2 2 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Little movement has marked the city’s promise to spend $3.75 million on a new or renovated Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center, but activity behind the scenes points toward a possible two-part conclusion.

The City Council’s parks and recreation committee, chaired by Councilman Johnny Sinclair, met Thursday at City Hall and discussed three potential conceptual design studies for two possible locations.

The cost of building a design titled Scheme A — an expansion of the former Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church family life center on Hyde Drive at Fairground Road — is pegged at $7.8 million.

Parks and Recreation Director Rich Buss also presented Scheme B, a new one-story building on the church site at a cost of $9.8 million, and Scheme C, a new, two-story North Loop building on the existing Elizabeth Porter site at $10.4 million.

The construction estimates include higher grade materials, providing longevity and better energy efficiency, according to the design documents.

“It would be sustainable,” Buss said. “It’s intended to be of a high-quality nature.”

The church site cost estimates do not include acquisition of the church site, a price Sinclair said is unknown at this time.

Mayor Steve Tumlin said during the committee meeting the Scheme C estimate is $7 million over budget and could balloon up to $12 million, or half the park bond revenue, with real estate costs.

“To put all our eggs in one basket is rough,” he said. “We want a Cadillac, but we’ve got a Volkswagen budget.”

Sinclair said after the meeting the figures were developed by a parks oversight committee, which surveyed residents and developed a wish list of amenities such as a wellness center, pool, outdoor splash zone, running track and children’s play area.

However, he said the city is not going to ask taxpayers to make up the difference between the estimates and the actual $3.75 million from the $25-million 2009 park bond approved by voters.

“We’re going to get a great place,” Sinclair said, “but it’s going to be economical.”

Economies of scale may apply to the opportunity to purchase the church facility, Sinclair said, and also tear down and rebuild the existing Elizabeth Porter structure at 370 Montgomery St. at Allgood Road and the North Loop.

“All of a sudden, you had this piece of property come on the market, and we had to look at it,” he said. “It has a gym, and it has more meeting space than we could afford (to build new). It may be such a great deal that we can do both.”

There is already an existing relationship between the church site and the two ball fields at the city’s 8.5-acre Custer Park at 600 Kenneth E. Marcus Way.

“Right now we use the parking lot of the family life center for overflow parking at the soccer fields,” Sinclair said.

A city purchase would secure its 150 spaces, he said.

“If they sold that parking lot to someone else and the new person did not want us to share that parking, it would put Custer Park at a serious disadvantage,” Sinclair said.

Sinclair said the church site makes sense even if is not in a “gateway” position.

“It’s not the North Loop site, but it’s adjacent to Custer Park, so there’s some synergy,” he said. “If we bought the church site, we would merge the two sites together.”

Two locations will also aid the city in developing two different sets of users, with possible revenue sources.

“If you’re going to build a community center and one of the purposes might be meeting space, class reunions, and wedding receptions, they may not want those next to a gym,” Sinclair said. “It may be wise to split the recreation portion from the community portion. It may be that we end up putting the recreation stuff at the church site and the meeting stuff at Elizabeth Porter.”

While the committee, which includes Councilman Anthony Coleman and Councilwoman Annette Lewis, did not decide on an action item related to the presentation, Sinclair said he was confident the North Loop site will be improved.

“We’re going to be talking to the church and then acting accordingly,” he said. “I’m committed to the current Elizabeth Porter site. We’re not going to abandon it.”
Comments
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SW Gal
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January 05, 2013
Shame on you! It is not the role of government to be in the entertainment business or the real estate business. That should be left to free enterprise. Government can make the enviroment friendly for such enterprise, but it is very DANGEROUS for government to enter into these endeavors.This is where Government will abuse such opportunities by declaring perfectly good homes and neighborhoods "blighted" so that they can use "eminent domain" to destroy private property rights. Next, you will be asking for more money from taxpayers to pay for your boondoggles while you and your cronies make lots of money on the side. FOR SHAME!
Church Streeter
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January 07, 2013
Actually...real estate is a big part of government business. The city owns and operates this rec center as an amenity available to the citizens. Private enterprise works in one of two ways: for-profit, where admission or membership dues will be charged, or non-profit, where it would rely upon charitable donations to fund operations.

Try to keep your personal problems out of the issue.
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