On Wednesday, the City Council will finalize construction plans to update the Lawrence Street Recreation Center, which is three-quarters of a mile from the Square, and move the Police Athletic League into the building.
The 2009 Parks Bond allocated $1.1 million to the redevelopment of the Lawrence Street Recreation Center.
Rich Buss, director of Parks and Recreation, said plans drafted by an architect and general contractor would get the building back in good condition and make needed changes to support the PAL program.
Buss said because of the amount of renovations needed, it could take two to three months to start construction. The work could be done to the exterior without closing the center, but depending on the amount of changes the council approves, the interior work could close the center for two to eight weeks.
The designs include another phase that entirely changes the grounds outside the Lawrence Street Recreation Center by removing the existing playground at the front of the property and filling in the empty pool area in the back.
“We are prepared to move forward with the pool demolition so that can be done as soon as we get the approval to proceed from the City Council. The building upgrades would follow because of the time required for the bidding process,” Buss said.
Take it outside
Buss estimates it would cost $537,000 to add a giant playground, patio and pavilion to the lot, with options for a $50,000 water feature or $100,000 skateboard area.
Councilmen Grif Chalfant and Andy Morris expressed concerns over insurance liability to add these elements, especially if children were playing at the site after operating hours when PAL would not be monitoring the yard.
Councilman Johnny Sinclair said those types of features might be better at a larger community center, like the one the city is hoping to build at Elizabeth Porter, directly north of the 120 Loop and west of Fairground Street.
Sinclair added that if those extra water and skate features are eliminated, the project would come in at the $1.1 million budget.
Councilman Anthony Coleman, who said he was excited plans are being finalized, asked to include a community garden in the space where the skateboard area was designated.
But Councilwoman Annette Lewis, who has been a proponent of PAL moving into the Lawrence Street Recreation Center, liked the idea of a portion being a grassy area.
Police chief touts program
PAL was founded by Lt. Mike Goins, who has served with the Marietta Police Department for 27 years.
When the program began five years ago, it was funded by a federal grant as part of the Weed and Seed initiative that focused on rebuilding communities with high crime, such as the Franklin and Delk Road areas.
Marietta’s Weed and Seed ended when the federal program stopped in September 2011, which caused the nonprofit PAL to rely on private fundraising and grants to buy uniforms and sports equipment, as well as transporting kids from around the city to the activities.
At its peak, PAL had 200 children involved in activities in one year, according to Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn.
Flynn said the program has been such a success that the City Council is providing a way to continue the work.
The Lawerence Street Recreation Center is a great space because it is centrally located in the city and will be able to attract children from all over Marietta, expanding PAL’s reach, Flynn said.
He said PAL already served as host to the basketball and volleyball events at the center this July that involved 50 kids.
Home away from home
Children in Marietta who may not have a stable family life or are being raised by a single parent, will now have a place they can call home.
While PAL is designed to draw kids together through athletics, the real point is to expose disadvantaged youths to positive role models within the police force, Flynn said.
“The main goal is mentoring,” Flynn said. “We learn how to conduct ourselves from watching adults.”
Flynn said the athletic activities offered by PAL, such as karate and cheerleading, are tools for the officers to teach greater life lessons, such as fairness in competition, the importance of education and staying away from drugs and crime.
Still, the PAL activities are also about fun, Flynn said, pointing to a golf program that was “quite a novelty for inner-city kids.”
Flynn said PAL also benefits the police department by allowing children to interact with officers.
“It shows the children of Marietta that police officers are not to be feared,” Flynn said.
By the numbers
Initial renovations to Lawrence Street Recreation Center
* repairing metal roof
* repainting exterior, interior
* laying new gym floor
* replacing ceiling
Another phase of improvements for PAL items
* adding computer lab
* relocating office to middle of building to give 360-degree view
* upgrading locker rooms that would be next to boxing area