The Loudon Recreation Advisory Commission brought before Loudon City Council Monday plans for the future community center.
The community center was first announced in 1997 when the master plan of Loudon Municipal Park was written up. The center was supposed to be phase two of the park. Phase three of the park included the Tate & Lyle Performing Arts Center, walking trails, Lions Club Pavilion and picnic shelters, Mark Harrell, Loudon Parks and Recreation Department director, said at the workshop.
“We’ve been doing some things, and we felt that we are proud of what we accomplished, but we really want to move forward with this phase two and build this recreation center,” Harrell said. “… Phase one was completed and dedicated. We had a dedication April 17, 1999, for those of you that were here. There were probably 300-500 people that came to the dedication. People were so excited that we were building this facility and everyone got one of these mugs, and that was the topic of the dedication was the recreation center and the use and the need of the recreation center.”
Harrell said the question is how much the center will cost and how much the city is willing to fund. The RAC, led by chairman Dr. Bud Guider, worked with engineers at MBI Companies Inc. to create a blueprint of a proposed center at an estimated $5 million.
The building contains two multi-purpose gyms to be used for activities like basketball, pickleball, racquetball and tennis. An elevated walking track sits 14 feet above ground encircling the perimeters of the two gyms and the event space. The event space is 5,000-5,200 square feet to be used by the community with a portable apparatus in case someone wants to host a live band for an event. There will also be a small room with limited equipment like exercise bikes and free weights so as not to compete with fitness centers in the area, Harrell said.
Adjustable meeting rooms will be made available to the community. There will be three meeting rooms measuring 30 feet by 30 feet with removable walls in between. Office and classroom spaces are also available. The RAC discussed doors at the back of the event space for things like indoor boat shows.
The building can be modified as funds become available in the future, Harrell said. If the need for an indoor pool is identified, it can be added.
Councilman Tim Brewster, RAC member, said it is time for the city to uphold its initial plan.
“We owe it to our community,” Brewster said. “We levied the tax for this. So I think it’s time we need to move forward and come true on our promises.”
Councilman Tim Dixon supports the center but questioned funding.
“This is something we have been looking for since 1997 when we bought this property and built the complex out there,” Dixon said. “This is something we were looking for back then. The only key issue now is paying for it. I don’t know if there’s grants out there we can get, or how we’re going to fund that situation, but I am behind it 100 percent. Whatever we’ve got to do as a city, I feel like we need to do it.”
Rod Ballard, Jackson Thornton Certified Public Accountants principal, was present at the workshop to discuss the $4 million debt service paving project. Ty Ross, city manager, asked him to address taking on more debt service with the community center.
“Through my work there with the paving plan, it’s given me the ability to assess, generally, your financial ability to take on another potential debt that we’re discussing here which would be another $5 million for the community building,” Ballard said. “So it’s my opinion you would need to take on and look for additional revenue strains in order to afford that debt service. In other words, everything you’ve been saying tonight building up about the community center is true — the trick is paying for it and looking for additional sources of funds.”