After a ‘whirlwind’ planning session The Lunz Group officially presented its initial design of the new facility that will replace the aging and damaged Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.
Members of the community gathered Tuesday evening to offer input on the conceptual design of the new community center that is set to replace the aging and damaged Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.
More than three times the size of the old facility, the nearly 30,000 square-foot building will be modern and
sustainable. Designed by the Lunz Group, an architectural firm based out of Lakeland, the facility reflects the priorities of the community while still remaining in a tight budget.
“The whole process is to design with you, not for you,” Bradley Lunz, president of The Lunz Group, said. “It is a transparent and very open process. We’re the instruments of the community, we’re here to pull those ideas out and make them better.”
A Community Center Advisory Group, consisting of citizens that represent the community that were selected by the city commissioners, spent the last several weeks working hand in hand with the Lunz Group to tell them exactly what they liked and didn’t like about the proposed models. Constructing a list of priorities, they were able to shape the current design into one that fits the actual needs of the community.
The proposed gymnasium will have two full courts and four cross courts, bleachers, room for scheduled league play as well as drop-in play, setups for volleyball and pickleball and the ability to be used as a multi-functional space.
The inspiration stems from the Auburndale Community Center, which is a similar size and structure and caught the interest of the city commission when they were deciding to either pay a minimum of $400,000 to repair the old building or start fresh with a new center.
Many of the former aspects that were so popular, like the computer zone, classrooms that act as both rental space and a venue for large groups, and a kitchen, will remain in the new facility. There will also be a craft room for quiet activities, office for staff and security and a check-in desk prominently situated in the open lobby.
A parking lot with approximately 100 spaces will act as a buffer between the building and the residential community and a drop-off circle will grace the front entrance leading to a large covered walkway. The building itself will be prominently seen from MLK Boulevard, making it a statement for the community.
A retention pond for stormwater management will also be added to the premises. Room will be left for the potential expansion of outdoor basketball courts, a splash pad and an outdoor playground. If the budget allows, those amenities will be included in this phase. If not, they will hopefully be added to future budgets.
Natural lighting will play a key role in the structure of the new facility with large windows along multiple walls. This works both to reduce costs and make the venue more inviting and approachable. The large covered walkway toward the entrance also allows for outside activities to take place in spite of the brutal summer heat.
Lunz said the new facility takes safety heavily into consideration with its design. Unlike Auburndale’s center, which is very linear and has two entrances, this facility is built surrounding its lobby and will have one large entrance at the front door. This allows the front desk to keep track of everyone that comes in and out of the building. The gymnasium itself will have multiple doors to help with traffic during games.
Currently, the plan is to have roadway entry from both MLK Boulevard and South Maryland Avenue to help with
traffic. This is a barrier-free environment and Lunz said it will meet all ADA requirements.
Sustainability was a large concern from some in attendance. The current plan aims to decrease energy consumption by having superior insulation, utilize the abundance of natural lighting, have stellar indoor air quality and be conscientious in the selection of materials used, which may include using a variety of locally sourced goods.
“Sustainability is more than just this aspect of being green,” Lunz said. “Sustainability is how we as an overall community help each other and lead into the next generation. We’re designing a building for the next 50 years, hopefully much longer than that.”
The issue of whether to consider using solar panels for energy was repeatedly brought by community members who wish to have an eco-friendly center. At this time there is no current plan to include that in the design due to Lunz saying there isn’t enough battery storage on panels to make it cost-effective.
However, the building has been rotated from its original position so the gymnasium’s roof is now sloping toward the south, putting it in an optimal position if panels are later added. A section of the property is also being left empty in case a separate solar energy system is added at a later date.
Because Marshall Middle School, which is located directly across the street, is already a designated high-intensity hurricane shelter, the recreation center will not be built to meet those requirements. The money instead is being used for cultivating room for programs at the center.
Danny McIntyre, a member of the Community Center Advisory Group, said they have taken everything into consideration from where they can host a carnival to how they can divert heavy baseball traffic during games.
“I’m in love with it, it’s just beautiful,” McIntyre said.
The new center is estimated to have 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. operating hours seven days a week with room to open earlier or later for special events. A third staffer will also be added to the budget for the facility.
From here The Lunz Group will make slight tweaks based on community input and present the model to the city commission. Once it is approved it goes to documentation, then there will be bids, permitting and finally on to the building stage of the process.
Jack Holland, recreation and parks director, said he hopes to do a ribbon cutting on July 9, 2019, making this a tight schedule for the city. Most of the construction will be completed during the months of April, May and June, which may cause a slight delay if there is heavy rain.