Working to fulfill the goals laid out in its most recent strategic plan, the Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency is gearing up to build a new recreation center, the L.B. Ahrens Recreation Center, located at the entrance to Cherokee Veterans Park off Cumming Highway.

“As part of the research we conducted for our new master plan, we identified indoor recreation space as a top priority,” CRPA Director Bryan Reynolds said. “We already have a rec center in the south end of the county, but we don’t have one in the north end.”

During the early planning stages of this project, Reynolds said Veterans Park emerged as a viable location for the rec center, because the park had plenty of room to develop the facility and included a site that was essentially ready for construction to begin.

According to plans presented at the May 21 meeting of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners, the rec center will be built in three phases and will take on the appearance of a large barn to better blend in with the rest of the countryside.

“When we initially designed Veterans Park, we saw there are quite a number of pastures and agricultural properties in the area,” Reynolds said. “The existing park buildings have that kind of theme, and we wanted to match that. It was important that it be visually appealing and blend in. We are very satisfied with the designs. It will be beautiful.”

Although the building will be constructed in three separate sections, it will be open to the public as soon as the first phase, consisting of a gymnasium, workout space, meeting rooms and office space for CRPA employees, is completed. The second phase will consist of another gymnasium and workout space, while the final portion of the rec center includes a lap pool and a leisure pool.

The county chose to pursue construction in three phases, rather than all at once in order to save on the cost of constructing the facility, according to Reynolds. Realizing they may not have the money to complete the entire center in one fell swoop, Reynolds said the agency decided three phases would be more manageable on the budget, yet still help the county meet the master plan by adding additional indoor recreation space for local residents.

While a great deal of effort is being put into the construction of a new recreation center at Cherokee Veterans Park, this is not the only indoor facility CRPA has plans for.

In 2018, the county entered into an agreement with the Cherokee County Board of Education, where the county would lease the old Hickory Flat gym from the school system, as the schools recently built a new gym. Reynolds said the county’s plan is to renovate the gym and reopen it to the community, describing it as complementing the rec center at Veterans Park.

Now that the plans have been approved by the county, Reynolds said CRPA is currently bidding out the full construction document set to contractors, which will take the project from its conceptual design to its full design. This phase could take up to six months to complete, but once these have been delivered, Reynolds estimated construction on the first phase would take between 12 and 14 months, meaning under the current timeline, the center would celebrate its grand opening in early 2021.

“Indoor recreation space is important,” Reynolds said. “We’re very excited about the project and moving forward.”

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