Photo courtesy of Davis Architects.
Homewood Rec Center
A rendering of the proposed rec center. Construction could begin in October.
The Homewood City Council is currently considering plans for a new recreation center designed by Davis Architects. If approved, the current center will be demolished, and construction for the tri-level facility will take place on the same site over 13 months. Construction is projected to start in October if plans are approved and funds are designated by that time.
The current Homewood Recreation Center, which was built in 1950, has not been renovated since 1992 and has been deemed outdated by the Parks and Recreation Board. The board analyzed whether it was best to renovate or rebuild the facility and decided rebuilding is the best option.
The original plan for the center was to cost $16 million and be 57,000 square feet, but at a July 23 public meeting the Parks and Recreation Board was scheduled to present a plan that was scaled back to 45,000 square feet.
“After meeting with the mayor and council members, we realized the price was more than what they were looking at,” Parks and Recreation Director Berkley Squires said. “We are trying to tighten the building up as much as we can without cutting out the things we need for now and for the future.”
Some Homewood residents who are aware of the project believe now is an appropriate time to build a new center, while others disagree. Some believe that
other projects should be focused on at this time and that the center is something to be completed at another time.
“I would love to have a community center; however, I would love for the streets in Ward 5 Hollywood to be in adequate shape first,” said Homewood resident Angela Comfort.
Others believe that the center will be a great investment and will be more convenient in terms of both time management and facility accessibility. The new center would enable Homewood to host more practices and games in its two gyms, update the strength training and cardio facility, and incorporate more space to accommodate numerous programs.
Squires said that the new building will be a more accessible for programs with multi-purpose rooms and a room for birthday parties, among other features. With the new center, the Parks and Rec Board wishes to accommodate more children in the summer camp; increase membership and program availability; and compete with the Ross Bridge, Vestavia and Mountain Brook areas. The facility will be environmentally friendly and handicapped-accessible.
“My 11-year-old son, Chris, recently told the City Council in the open meeting that he was looking forward to having more basketball space,” said Homewood
resident Marjorie Davis Trimm. “Both of my kids have had to practice basketball on school nights after their bed times because there isn’t enough space.”
Two gyms will also allow one gym to remain open to the public while camps and other programs are held in the other gym.
Homewood City Council members have also begun to weigh the pros and cons of the effects the presented plans would have on the community as a whole.
“The savings on heat/air and several other critical features including ADA compliance represent a positive move for Homewood,” said council member Walter Jones.
Some council members believe that many Homewood residents have not been
adequately informed about the project nor have they mandated it.
“Most people feel we are putting the cart way before the horse,” said council member Hunter Payne. “Where is the public mandate? Nobody said they wanted to tear down the Rec Center; they just wanted the facility improved.”
Payne believes the city should see more detailed information and multiple plans with different cost levels before the council votes on the project.
At a public presentation of the recreation center plans on June 25, Payne voiced concerns about the lack of an unbiased, third-party opinion in the presentation of the plans. Council member David Hooks expressed hesitation that the new cost surpassed the initially projected budget of $11 million. About 30 people attended the event.
“I think the new center is something we desperately need,” said Mayor Scott McBrayer. “We’ve been working on this for a couple of years. It’s easy to see what’s in store for Homewood and the community has to prepare for growth. People pay a tremendous price to live in Homewood and expect nice things for their families. This is one of those nice things.”
Parking capacity for the new center would be raised from 123 to 173 spaces. Membership is projected to increase by 33 percent to 5,800 members as a result of the new facility. Fees will also increase as follows: individual $150-200, pool $125-250, nonresident $125-250, all family $200-360. Operating costs will also increase by $125,000 when construction is complete.
If the City Council approves the plans, the city will lose one season at the pool and one season of summer camp. They will have to relocate the weight and cardio rooms during the construction period.
Council members were eager to get residents’ input on the center on July 23 at the regularly scheduled council meeting. Following the meeting, the council will consider all presented information and discuss what the future holds for Homewood.
“It is now our job to take their (Parks and Recreation Board’s) recommendations, look at possible funding options and weigh this project versus other city needs. It should be a lively and interesting discussion,” said council member Vance Moody.
To share your input, contact your city council representative. For contact information, visit homewoodal.net/ward.php.
For an update on the July 23 meeting, read our recap from the meeting.