By Joel Hall
In an effort to reach under-served residents in the south end of College Park with recreation activities, the City of College Park broke ground on a new recreation center on Monday.
About 100 people gathered to turn dirt on what will be the city's third and newest recreation facility.
The new center, which will be located at 2300 Godby Road, will feature: two separate, 200-person capacity gymnasiums fitted for basketball and volleyball; a large exercise room; a classroom; a meeting room; a large lobby with a snack bar; and three private offices. The city is budgeting $3.7 million for the project.
Jack Longino, mayor of College Park, said the recreation center is a much-needed amenity.
"We've had some parks on the south end of town, but we've never had a recreation facility," said Longino. "You have a lot of children down there with no facilities close. When you move the facilities down there, you give them something else to do rather than join a gang or fight.
"I'm always excited when we can do something for the children," Longino added. "If you give them enough choice, I have found that kids will do the right thing."
Eric Stipe, parks and recreation director for College Park, said the new center will be integrated into two public swimming pools, which were built near the location in 2005.
Building the facility on land it already owns will save the city about $500,000 in land cost, according to Stipe.
"When we opened the swimming pools in 2005, the response was so great we had to limit the number of people in the pool to 250," said Stipe. "We realized that we needed to build a facility in the area. We were trying to buy property from the City of Atlanta, but we were able to build it over property we already own.
Stipe said that in 2006, with the opening of the fifth runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the city lost two of its parks on the south side.
As the last two recreation centers in the city were built in 1956, Stipe believes the new facility will help bring recreation to an area where it is desperately needed.
"We want to reach the status of our other recreation centers, where we have maximum participation," said Stipe. "This is going to be a new building that all of our citizens can be proud of."