Progress on the new Memorial Park Community Center is easily visible these days, as mild weather has allowed workers to get the structure about 85 percent under roof and enabled subcontractors to begin buzzing around the center’s interior.
“Being under roof takes the weather out of the equation,” said Knoxville’s Rentenbach Constructors’ Project Superintendent Robert Halcomb.
There has been no change in the projected late March completion date since ground was first broken in October. Work began the following month when unexpectedly cold weather hit the area, and construction slowed at the time.
But the $15 million, 67,000-sqaure-foot project near Legion and Bert streets no longer is an empty hull.
“The electrical, plumbing, HVAC, walls are going up,” said Randy Christiansen, Burleson Construction project manager. “The building is structurally complete on the exterior, and we’re now working on the exterior finish while the weather remains nice.”
The front of the center, which runs along the former Lonnie Lowe Way, and the side that faces Bert Street will be comprised mainly of red brick. Other portions of the building will have red brick at the bottom, a limestone-colored precast band in the middle and a stucco-like finish at the top. All of these finishes will cover concrete block.
“We’re also installing fire sprinkler systems, and we should have all the glass walls up by the end of October,” Christiansen said. “Fortunately, with most of the building being under roof, the interior tradesmen have been getting a lot done.”
A look inside reveals a vast concrete block hallway that leads to the pool and activity rooms beginning on the building’s south side. This block runs north just past the gymnasium and will be painted. Beyond this area is the senior component, which will have painted drywall. The interior hung ceiling in these areas will have an egg crate shape through which light can pass from the skylights above.
Two reception areas are taking shape. One is located at the recreation component near the pool area, gymnasium and exercise area; the other will be located at the entryway to the senior component.
The large multi-purpose gymnasium will accommodate two basketball courts, volleyball and shuffleboard. Dividers can be used to separate the two basketball courts, which will have hardwood flooring and bleachers on both sides.
“There also will be a total of five locker rooms (near the pool and gymnasium),” Christiansen said while giving the Johnson City Press a tour. “There is a men’s, boy’s, women’s, girl’s and family locker room. Each have lockers, showers and rest rooms.”
Framing for the two gas log fireplaces and information center are in place for what will be the senior component reception and sitting area, which also will have a parquet floor.
“There will be a gate that can be closed on both sides of this large room, and it can be used to separate the recreation area and senior components when people are playing basketball or when kids are playing,” he said.
The $15 million 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.
Both Christiansen and Holcomb said these projects likely will not be completed before the main structure is wrapped up, and a completion date for the tennis courts and terrazzo will be contingent on weather conditions.
Meanwhile, City Manager Pete Peterson said about two weeks ago that he had reviewed applications and was reviewing candidates for Johnson City’s parks and recreation director position.
As of Wednesday, there was no word on an appointment.
Sue Orr, the current Seniors’ Center director, will continue to be responsible for seniors’ programs, scheduling and staffing. But she will report directly to the new parks and recreation director who will oversee the new center, as well as Freedom Hall, 25 parks, 46 ball fields, 19 tennis courts, two 18-hole golf courses, four recreation centers and two swimming pools.