Monday was a special day in Grovetown, not only because it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day but also because Grovetown officials opened the city's newest community center.
"Well, folks, the day has come," Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau said to those gathered for the ribbon-cutting of Liberty park Community Center on Newmantown Road. "It is a historical day for the city of Grovetown. A day that many of us have been waiting for, for a long time."
Construction on the $1.1 million building began in March by contractors Kirby Fahrion and Associates, but city officials have worked for more than a decade to see the center open.
"When I first came on council about 16 years ago, we had $100,000 in the budget to build a recreation center or a community center," City Councilman David Daughtry said. "I was jumping up and down saying, 'Let's do it. Let's do it. Let's do it.'
"I'm glad we weren't able to do it, because this is a little more than $100,000 and I think we've got a fine facility."
Daughtry and many residents and officials took their first tour of the combination gymnasium and multipurpose building, which includes an indoor basketball court, a fitness and weight room, and a few offices and meeting rooms in addition to a commercial kitchen.
Some fitness equipment and tables and chairs are still on order. But when all of it has arrived, the building will hold about $100,000 in equipment and supplies.
Children already were enjoying the court Monday as they shot baskets while others enjoyed refreshments in nearby meeting rooms.
The building was a joint effort of the city and the Columbia County government, which put $500,000 into the project.
"This is a great example of the partnership that should exist between the cities and the county," state Rep. Barry Fleming, who helped negotiate the $500,000 in 1-cent sales tax funds when he served as the county commission chairman in 1999. "This is going to be an excellent facility for this part of the county because city residents and county residents both can come here."
City officials are considering allowing The Family Y and the Boys and Girls Club of Augusta to run programs out of the recreation center and are awaiting proposals from both organizations.
Columbia County Recreation Director Charlie Beale said the center, surrounded by Liberty Park's four baseball fields and walking track, is a benefit to the county.
"Anytime we build a recreational program or recreation facility in the county, it is an asset," Beale said. "It is something that continues to help our youths stay off the streets and keep them out of trouble. This is something we need throughout the county. I think it is a great day for Grovetown opening this building today."
Trudeau said he's excited about the opportunities the center affords children such as a place to be active and stay out of trouble, a place to learn to work and play together and to play sports.
"Us old folks can get in there and do a little exercise and get down to a 34 in the waistline," Trudeau said.
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