Memorial Park Community Center’s opening date now scheduled for July

Gary B. Gray • Apr 26, 2012 at 9:37 PM

Knoxville’s Rentenbach Constructors is nearing completion of Johnson City’s new $15 million, 67,000-square-foot recreation center that by July 1 should have hundreds, if not thousands, of people dancing, swimming, playing billiards, tennis and a long list of other activities for the body and mind.

Ground was first broken on Memorial Park Community Center in October 2010. Work began the following month when unexpectedly cold weather hit the area, and construction slowed at the time. Last spring, wet weather hampered progress on some portions of the center, so it’s not a complete surprise that it may take a little longer than first expected, and the company has a buffer built into the contract that should allow it to complete the center by July.

“The outside of the building is now basically done save a few odds and ends,” said Randy Christiansen, a project manager for Johnson City’s Burleson Construction, the city’s construction agent. “We’re working now on finishing a peninsula that separates traffic in front of the building and directs traffic to and from the main parking lot and entrances and exits at both Bert and Legion streets.”

Crews also are busy outside finishing up sidewalks and curbing, light poles and finishing the final grading and landscaping. Meanwhile, Christiansen said all windows and entrance doors are in place and the building can now be completely secured when workers are away.

Inside, which is a LOT of inside, is becoming bright with white epoxy paint. The majority of work on the ceilings, including HVAC and plumbing, is just about done and workers soon will crank up the system to help remove any remaining moisture being generated by the terrazzo finish on all hallway floors and some other areas.

Workers begin with a rough base and use a grinder, then sand and water, to “work up” the terrazzo-style finish — a colorful but durable flooring that resembles marble.

The middle portion of the facility is equipped with red and white tile showers, lockers and changing rooms for men, women, boys, girls and a family area.

All the hydraulics and other materials to support the 75-foot-long lap pool, splash pool and teaching pool have been installed. An off-white colored tile will be set around the large area, and finishers will come in near the end of the job to put the final coatings on the pool surfaces.

The gymnasium/multi-purpose room’s size is easily on par with most university gymnasiums and is fitted with two full basketball courts and four half-courts. The gym, which can accommodate everything from volleyball to ballroom dancing, is brightly painted and includes soundproofing material on the ceiling and walls to dampen noise. The flooring, like the pool area, will be completed near the very end of the project.

Meanwhile, all the kitchen equipment is in and ready to go. In fact, so are the arts and crafts room, billiards, computer and exercise rooms, though no equipment has been permanently installed.

In the main foyer — an area that can be accessed from outside thanks to a drop-off-pick-up semi-circle that brings visitors close to a large set of double doors — now has two gas log fireplaces reaching from the floor to the ceiling around which will be built an information/welcome center. The room will include couches, chairs, a coffee machine and posted information about senior and other classes offered.

“They’re going to town right now,” Christiansen said. “There’s a lot left, but they’re going to it.”

The project includes two alternatives: the addition of a $90,500 terrazzo complete with sitting area and greenspace that will be built behind the senior component, and the $218,000 tennis courts are being constructed just west of the senior component.

The City Commission already is well into discussion and near the design phase for other elements that will be built near the center, thanks in large part to money left over from the estimated cost. These include an amphitheater, wrought iron fencing, a plaza honoring veterans with the famous Doughboy as its centerpiece, as well as concrete walkways and other amenities.

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