The new Athens Recreational Center will soon be open to the public.
Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said it's been a dream more than five years in the making, and he expects the City of Athens to hold a soft opening for the project by the end of July so long as coronavirus does not stand in the way.
Once everything is completed in the building and all the different departments have moved in to their new office spaces, Marks said the city will host a grand opening for the center — in three to four months' time, he predicts.
“I think people are really going to be proud of it,” he said. “I'm proud of it. It's a really nice facility. It's way overdue.”
The building sits in the northeast corner of the Athens Sportsplex and overlooks six new tennis courts, two sand volleyball courts and a playground area for children.
Once complete, the building will boast three full-length basketball courts, exercise areas with equipment, an indoor walking track, two racquetball courts, a conference room, meeting rooms, a day care and office space for different departments related to City of Athens parks and recreation.
“The coordinators and director can oversee what is going on from here,” Marks said. “We still have different parks in other parts of the city, but at least we can coordinate better from here.”
The 72,000-square-foot facility was bid out and projected to cost $16.1 million. Marks said as of Monday, the project is $200,000 under budget, which includes “a few little extras here and there.”
Marks said the city plans on naming one of the gyms in the facility after former Parks and Recreation Director Ben Wiley, who passed away in 2018.
Marks said his office, the Athens City Council and others have “all worked together” to get the new rec center completed, which he sees as an investment by the city for the future in terms of giving young people and their families a fun place to go.
“I'm as excited about this as I have been for anything in a long time,” he said. “It is one of the best projects I've seen. It's a phenomenal building.”
Marks said the new Athens Recreation Center will serve as one of the city's five polling places during the upcoming July 14 runoff election.
The new rec center will continue to be a polling place in future elections as well, including the municipal elections in August.