Johnson City’s Memorial Park Community Center is now almost completely under cover and construction is on track to wrap up in March as projected.
“It’s going to be a beautiful place,” said Randy Christiansen, who performs building information modeling for Tommy Burleson, the city’s construction agent. “It will be well-built and functional.”
Ground was officially broken in October and work began the following month when unexpectedly cold weather hit the area. Construction slowed at the time. But since then, Knoxville’s Rentenbach Constructors has been moving from the south end of the $15 million project nearest Legion Street to the north end near Bert Street to complete the 67,000-sqaure-foot facility.
The underground piping, plumbing, fiber optic cable and electric lines have now been covered, or backfilled. The most obvious change, now that the large amounts of structural steel is now in place, are the actual shapes of the building. Most of the concrete block that serves as the exterior foundation is complete, except for the far north end.
Large spaces below the uppermost portion of the roof are awaiting windows which, along with skylights throughout the building, will let natural light shine in and down. The roofing above both the gymnasium and natatorium employs a special material meant to deaden noise and reduce the accumulation of moisture.
“The pool contractor has pulled off the job and will not return until near the end of the project when the final masonry and tile work will be completed,” said Robert Halcomb, Rentenbach’s project superintendent. “You’ll start seeing a lot of interior finish work very soon, and they’re currently laying down what’s called a vapor barrier beneath what will be the gym floor.”
Halcomb said he expects the entire center to be “structurally enclosed” in about two weeks.
The finish in front, at the drop-off point and around that area will all be red brick. Most of the rest of the structure will have red brick on the lower portion. A solid grayish concrete section will separate the brick from a lighter-colored material with a stucco finish.
There have so far been no changes to the main entry, which will have two gas log fireplaces, and information center and sitting areas. A billiards room will be located just to the left. Beyond that are the gym and pools. Turning to the right after coming into the foyer will lead people to the areas planned for senior programs.
Rentenbach won the right to build the center with a bid of about $11.2 million. That includes two alternatives: the addition of a $90,500 terrazzo complete with sitting area and greenspace which will be built behind the senior component, and the $218,000 tennis courts, which are being constructed just west of the senior component.
The total cost is roughly $15 million when design, engineering and other costs are included.
There have been no significant changes to the original design, though the entry and exit points were determined later on in the process. There will be a total of four routes available. Two of these, off Bert Street and Legion Street will serve as entry and exit ways onto the former Lonnie Lowe Lane which is no longer a through street.
A new pathway created by the street’s closure will incorporate peninsulas that jut out from the center’s main parking lot to the east forming four points of entry and exit.