By Joel Hall
Since 1955, those living in downtown College Park and the western portion of the city have had access to recreation facilities. On Saturday, the city will open its Godby Road Recreation Center to the public, giving residents in the southern portion of the city access to a new, state-of-the-art facility.
The grand opening will start at 1 p.m., at the center, located at 2300 Godby Road. During the opening, entertainment will be provided by jazz trumpeter Gregorie "Milkshake" Mayfield and the Milkshake Quartet, food and refreshments will be served, and tours of the new facility will be provided by city workers.
Eric Stipe, director of the College Park Recreation Department, said the Godby Road corridor, which straddles the Fulton and Clayton county lines, has traditionally been under-served, in terms of recreational facilities.
He said the new center will offer 35,000 square feet of space, and include two regulation-size gymnasiums, with basketball courts, an outdoor swimming pool, a weight room, an exercise room, community meeting rooms, and a multi-purpose classroom for arts and crafts activities.
"We had several parks in that part of the city which were taken when they [the City of Atlanta] built the fifth runway of the airport," Stipe said. "A few years ago, we built a swimming pool and a bath house there, and eventually decided that we wanted a recreation center. We wanted to offer the same kind of programs on the south side [of the city] that we have on the north side. The citizens wanted it, and the city council made an effort to make it a reality."
College Park Councilman Tracey Wyatt, whose ward encompasses the southeast quadrant of the city, said the city spent $3.7 million on the facility through a combination of city-budgeted funds, rental car facility tax proceeds, and Community Development Block Grant funds.
He said the facility will provide residents in unincorporated Fulton and Clayton counties access to free recreation activities, tutoring, and after-school programs.
"It is situated near the most-heavily populated area of apartments on Godby Road," Wyatt said. "We have a lot of kids on that corridor, and we needed to build something that would give them a place to do something constructive. They've been closing recreation centers left and right in Atlanta and East Point. We're glad that we're one city that is moving forward with recreation centers, and giving our kids something to do."
Wyatt, who lobbied for the funds for the new facility, said it is the city's third recreation center, after the Brady Recreation Center on the west side, and the Conley Recreation Center in downtown College Park.
Godby Road Recreation Center Director Emmanuel Rainey said that, with the space provided by the new facility, the center will be able to offer free after-school tutoring to students, classes in karate, aerobics, and dance, as well as meeting space for local residents. He believes the center will make a difference in the community.
"I grew up in the College Park area," Rainey said. "Never has there been a recreation center in this community to serve this side of town. You can come up with a lot of things, but until you have a facility to do things, it is really hard to get people on one page. [With the center,] you can offer so much enrichment to the kids, as far as programs ... I think the community will see a big difference in the youth."
The center will open for regular business hours on Monday, Feb. 22. With the exception of the weight room, use of the Godby Road Recreation Center is free. The annual fee for weight-room users is $50 for people living within the College Park city limits and $60 for non-residents. For more information, call (404) 767-1537.