For many in Garner, a new recreation center has been a long time coming. It was a idea started more than 20 years ago, and Wednesday, in a small ceremony, town officials and employees broke ground on the $8.9 million recreation center site in historic downtown Garner.
“This is something that we’ve been dreaming about for many years,” council member Gra Singleton said.
Mayor Ronnie Williams said when thinking of the facility two words come to mind: “patience and perserverance,” and that they describe long time council member Singleton, who has long been an advocate for a recreation or community center for the town.
Mayor Pro-tem Kathy Behringer said 30 years ago, before becoming a council member when she’d drive through downtown, she thought Garner could do something with the area if it had a vision.
“There was a vision, and Gra was one of those who fostered that vision and kept it alive, and it was slow and sometimes discouraging, but look where we are today,” she said. “We have it now and we’re going to enjoy it for so many years to come.”
The 45,000-square-foot facility is expected to spur growth in Garner’s downtown, which has been a focus for town leaders in recent years. In the past, Garner’s downtown was an afterthought some thought might wither away as developers became interested in other parts of town. Now, town officials are hoping an array of food and retail options, as well as residential growth, will follow.
“This section of our town is an area that has great potential for revitalization,” council member Ken Marshburn said. “This is the town’s commitment to assist in that process.”
He challenged private developers to join with the town in redeveloping downtown Garner.
“As we join together, who knows what this area can look 10 or 15 years from now, or even less than that,” he said.
The center will be two stories tall to stay in line with the other buildings in the area. It will have three high-school-sized basketball gyms, an indoor walking track on the second level, three multipurpose rooms and an art room.
Among the three gymnasiums, 500 people will be able to sit in the bleachers. Two gyms will seat 200, and the other gym will seat 100.
It will also have showers and a kitchen.
The center will be located at the corner of Main and Montague streets.
The town currently has one recreation center, Avery Street Recreation Center. It has one basketball gym and a small workout room. It is small relative to the size of the town.
When the new center is complete, the Garner Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department will move under one roof. It is currently spread out among three buildings in different areas of the town.
The recreation center is being paid for with $3.9 million in bond money voters passed in 2013, $2.5 million ConAgra gave the town before the company moved, parks and rec reserve funds that were set aside for the center and grant money.
The town has made a lot of headway on its 2013 bond program. So far it has built a new police station, two dog parks, sidewalks and is building a new Town Hall on Seventh Avenue.
Construction on the recreation center is expected to be completed in December 2017.