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Legion Street Recreation Center slated for demolition

Gary B. Gray • Updated Sep 18, 2015 at 8:15 PM

The former Legion Street Recreation Center will be demolished in about a month, clearing away what has become an aging and unsafe building while creating a temporary parking lot within the 25-acre Memorial Park Community Center campus.

Johnson City’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recommended the action, and city commissioners unanimously approved an $83,000 agreement with Bristol, Virginia,-based Taff & Frye Thursday to begin asbestos abatement on Oct. 15, followed by demolition.

Removal of the center, which was built in 1947, has been on the city’s radar for at least two years. For the time being, the plan is to create a yet unknown number of parking spaces at the site to be used by visitors to Cardinal Park, Legion Street Pool and Memorial Park.

Though the neighboring pool also is aging and deemed expensive to renovate, it is not on the cut list. Work is not set to begin on the old center until one week after the annual Fishout is held Oct. 9-11.

Since the Johnson City Cardinals’ business office, run by the Johnson City Sports Foundation, will be coming down with the building, a new location was needed.

“This has been discussed for quite a while, and we’re going to move into the Memorial Park Community Center,” said Foundation President Lee Sowers. “It’s one large room with cubicles and it’s really going to improve things for us.”

Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl said the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board concluded early this year that renovating the existing center was cost prohibitive. Members will now start tossing around ideas about future uses.

“Back in 2000 we had a study done on the center, and all the recommendations, just to bring the building up to code, came in at more than $600,000 — that was 15 years ago,” Stahl said.

When the new center was built, activities at the old center were laid into the new $15 million, 67,000-square-foot recreation center’s programming schedule. Stahl said the old 31,000-square-foot recreation center has been only partially utilized over the past two years.

“It (the location of the old center) is part of the bigger Memorial Park campus,” said Parks and Recreation Director Roger Blakeley. “While many people grew up with Legion Street as their place for recreation, that has changed. Memorial Park Community Center is now that place.”

The campus is bordered by East Main and Dyer streets and Legion and Bert streets.

Email Gary Gray at [email protected]. Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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