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Recreation center will be added to Sportsplex

A new recreation center at Troy's Sportsplex would be a dream-come-true for Dan Smith, parks and recreation director for the City of Troy.

"It is the first step toward the realization of dream that many people have had for many, many years," said Smith. "It will be the most important recreation facility that will impact more people of a varied age

because we will now be able to offer wide variety of programs and services that we have not been able to offer in the past."

The recreation center is the largest new project that would be funded under the city's $13 million bond issue that could be sent to market as early as next week.

With a tentative budget of $4.5 million, the recreation center would be the third phase in the development of the Sportsplex.

Phase I began in 1989 with construction of the first baseball/softball complex. Phase II, originally, was a recreation center, but a second playing complex was built instead, deferring the recreation center to the final phase, Smith said.

Although the city council unanimously agreed to move forward with the center's construction, the project's size and scope is far from decided.

"There are a couple or three issues we've got to iron out before we make the final (construction) decision," council president Johnny Witherington said.

One plan calls for a 60,000-square foot facility that would include office space for the parks and recreation department, an indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, and indoor walking track and multi-purpose rooms. Another option would be to scale back the design to 45,000 square feet, Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said.

"Over the next two or three weeks, we'll have some meetings with an architect and the council and get input from the recreation department," said Lunsford. "We just know that we're going to set a maximum budget and then get the most of it for the city's money."

Smith said his priorities for the center are based on requests for services not currently provided by his department, and that public input helps determine what needs to be included.

"During this important time, we hope the public will voice their support for what they'd like to see in this facility. We have received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from the community and we believe that we have a picture of what the people of Troy want, not only for today but to provide for generations to come," he said.

Added to the construction issues the council will face are concerns about the center's location at the Sportsplex, although council members say there is no other practical location.

"I've been on the council for 12 years, and for as long as that we've been looking at building this center at the Sportsplex," said council member Jose Henderson. "That's really the only place it needs to go, but (the council) wants to maximize its use for all citizens of Troy."

At issue is making the facility accessible to Troy citizens that may not have transportation to the Sportsplex.

"My concern is that it's accessible for all citizens - whether they have transportation or not. The city will come up with a means to address this," he said.

Council member Wanda Moultry echoed Henderson's concerns: "We want to make sure there are means to access the center. We've got a vision for the city, and it's coming together."

While Moultry and Henderson stopped short of providing options for transportation, Smith said there were options on the horizon.

"We are concerned with, and have addressed, the issue of accessibility. We hope through various agencies, transportation will be provided at scheduled times on a daily basis for those seeking transportation," he said. "I am confident that we can make this work so anyone wishing to access this facility will be able to without any problems."

Witherington said part of the "ironing out" was the accessibility issue.

"We want to make sure that all sections of the community will have access to it - we'll be talking to the school system, the housing authority and other organizations to see how they can access the facility also," he said.

Another design consideration being made by both council members and the parks and recreation staff is making sure the center's construction doesn't put private businesses in jeopardy.

"We are also very conscious of local private businesses and have no desire to compete with private businesses," Smith said.

Smith's said that services offered in the private sector - such as weight training and health club services - didn't need to be duplicated in a city-owned recreation center, although the services such as multi-purpose rooms were needed.

Lunsford said he and the council were committed to providing a service that would enhance the city's quality of life and strike a balance with private-sector opportunities.

"We're a long way away on making the final decisions, but the scope of the project, when finalized, will not compete with private enterprise," he said.

The center would also not jeopardize the continued operation of the city's existing recreational facilities, although Lunsford said the city would continue its practice of studying the feasibility of renovations and improvements to other facilities.

"It's a continuous process. If any of them ever get to the point that it's not cost effective to operate them, then we'll do something," he said.

" but we won't just abandon these other facilities."

Even though the recreation center is far from finalized, Smith said the final product will enhance the lives of Troy citizens for years to come.

"I smile when I look back at 1990 when people were adamantely criticizing the construction of the Sportsplex ball fields, saying it was a waste of taxpayers dollars," he said. "I believe anytime you invest in the children of Troy, the people of Troy and the future of Troy, then that is money well spent."