Marietta residents called out the city in April 2013 for its lack of action to renovate the Lawrence Street Recreation Center.
The 2009 Parks Bond allocated $1.1 million to renovate the center. After a long period of construction, Coleman said the renovated building will open Oct. 23.
After bearing the brunt of complaints by residents who say they hadn’t seen improvements progressing, Coleman was proud to show the work going on at the center Thursday.
The new center will include a game room, fitness center, computer room and a new basketball court. Outside, new additions include a playground, turf field and a new pavilion with grills and picnic tables.
The center’s former swimming pool has been filled in, and the playground will be constructed in its place.
The air conditioning units and all of the electric wiring required replacing to meet city code, said Scott Davidson, the superintendent of Duluth-based Multiplex LLC Construction Company.
Work on the basketball court, which will be replaced, has not started.
“The roof used to leak in here real bad,” Coleman said.
Davidson said he has since replaced the metal roofing, but not before experiencing the leak firsthand.
“I noticed,” Davidson said.
The roof is constructed with tiles made out of PVC piping, so it’s leak-proof, Davidson said.
The center, which was built in 1954, has a 25,000-square-foot facility that sits on 3.3 acres just down the road from City Hall.
Coleman remembers spending time at the center in the 1960s.
“I was part of that era. I played basketball here,” Coleman said. “I have lots of fun memories here.”
Coleman said one of his favorite memories is the jukebox that used to play three songs per quarter.
“I loved that,” he said.
The building was a place to gather, not just a place for exercise.
Brenda McCrae, a Marietta woman known in the community for being named the first black homecoming queen of Marietta High School in 1973, said the center is vital to the neighborhood.
“The rec (center) was a place where many leaders of our community would come and teach the lessons of life that you may not learn in the classroom,” McCrae said.
Coach James “Friday” Richards, a former Marietta High School football coach who will start as an assistant coach at Whitefield Academy in the fall, said the Lawrence Street center was “the place to be” when he was growing up.
“Coming here was an everyday thing,” Richards said. “We lived at the pool.”
Later, Richards took his girlfriend, and now wife, Dorothy Richards to dances at the center. When Richards was raising his daughter, Jaimie, who is now 23, he passed down the tradition. Richards spent time coaching his daughter’s basketball team on the decades-old court.
When he stopped by the center while it was under construction, the coach said he couldn’t wait to see those traditions continue another 50 years.
“It’s more than a landmark — it’s history,” James Richards said.