The Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks & Recreation Department plans to offer swimming lessons, basketball tournaments and other staffed activities at Luetta Moore Park and the Rev. W.D. Kent Park after up to $4.5 million in upgrades are completed.
City of Statesboro and Bulloch County officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the extensive renovations to the two parks, both on Statesboro’s west side, Tuesday afternoon. While the city has borrowed the $4.5 million to cover the full renovation costs, the county is contributing $1 million over five years from its share of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
The city owns the land under these parks but the county funds the operations of the Parks & Recreation Department, which will manage and staff them.
“It’s going to be a huge shot in the arm for that community, and it’s exciting for us here to be able to program the new facilities,” Statesboro-Bulloch Parks & Recreation Director Eddie Canon said in an interview. “It’s going to be fun.”
New at Luetta Moore
Luetta Moore Park, on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, until now has consisted of a softball field, a Little League field, a playground, a basketball court and a multipurpose building, called the Jones-Love Cultural Center.
With the improvement project, the park will retain the Jones-Love Cultural Center, the Zadie Lundy Douglas Little League Field and the basketball court. But the large softball field will be replaced by a heated, three-lane teaching or “therapeutic” swimming pool, a splash pad and a bath house. Other planned new features include a volleyball court, an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, multi-age playground, two family pavilions with grills, improved lighting, security cameras, expanded parking and WiFi access.
For the aquatic features at Luetta Moore, the basic programming approach will be to bring aquatics expertise from Splash in the Boro over to the neighborhood park, Canon said.
“We’re going to put together swim lessons and different things like that, yoga lessons in the water, the same stuff we do out at Splash,” he said. “We’ll bring that whole staff here to do things here, too, just like we’re doing at Splash. We’re excited about it, and this gives us another opportunity to be able to teach swimming lessons.”
Asked if there will be opportunities for neighborhood children to use the planned new pool and splash pad for free, Canon said that will be up to the city council members and county commissioners to decide.
“We haven’t had that discussion yet, but in the next few weeks we will,” he said.
New on Grady Street
The Rev. W.D. Kent Park, at 1 W. Grady St. and often referred to as “Grady Street Park,” until now has featured six basketball half-courts, a restroom building and little else. When the planned improvements are completed, the park will have a covered basketball pavilion containing three full courts, as well as an outdoor basketball half-court, an ADA-compliant multi-age playground, two family picnic pavilions with grills, an accessible walking trail, a drinking fountain, a new parking lot, improved lighting, security cameras and renovated bathrooms.
Work on both parks should be completed by July with weather permitting, various officials said Tuesday. Canon said he is optimistic for July 4, but Mayor Jonathan McCollar said his hopes are on mid-July or at least before school starts back in August.
Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks & Recreation currently has no staff assigned to either park on a regular basis. That will change for Luetta Moore Park when it reopens with the expanded facilities, Canon told the Statesboro Herald earlier Tuesday.
The department will need to hire a few more lifeguards and other staff members for Luetta Moore Park, but experienced lifeguards and instructors will swap duties between there and Splash, he said.
Some of the department’s after-school and summer day camp programs will move there, with staff members working out of the Jones-Love building, he said. Currently popular as a rental facility for community and family events, it will remain available for rent when not used for planned programs.
The Rev. W.D. Kent Park still will have no actual buildings except the basketball pavilion, with a roof but no walls, and the restrooms. So staff members will go to Grady Street from the department’s Memorial Park headquarters, at Max Lockwood Drive and Fair Road, as needed for programming, Canon said. This is the same way athletic programs are staffed at Mill Creek Regional Park and community parks across the county.
The department hosted a 3-on-3 basketball tournament on the existing, open courts at Grady Street last fall.
“So you’re going to see more and more activities like that at that facility, where our athletic staff will go out and put on tournaments and do different things on those basketball courts,” Canon said. “It’s really going to be a great facility with that cover and it’s going to be lit, so you’re going to be able to play into the evening when you need to, if you’re going to put on a tournament.”
The city paid Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, the same company that did the initial county-funded study of parks within Statesboro, to flesh out the plans for these two parks.
John E. Lavender & Associates, a Statesboro-based construction firm, is carrying to out the bulk of the renovations on a $2,877,954 contract with the city, which is also paying Wood up to $33,560 more to help oversee the work.
Lavender & Associates personnel at Tuesday’s ceremonies said work would begin Wednesday.
Statesboro City Council acted to spend almost $500,000 more on the park projects during its late Tuesday afternoon meeting, after the groundbreaking ceremonies. The vote was unanimous to accept GameTime’s proposal to provide and install playground equipment at the two parks for $499,684. This was not part of Lavender’s construction contract.
Mayor McCollar and District 2 City Councilwoman Paulette Chavers, quoted in previous stories about the park projects, spoke during the ceremony at Luetta Moore Park. But it was also an opportunity to hear county perspectives, and county commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson, listed on the program, instead called on Commissioner Anthony Simmons, who grew up near the park, to speak.
In fact, he learned to swim there when it was a segregated park for the black community and had a pool and a previous community building. That building included a library, and Simmons’ mother was the librarian.
The old pool had been abandoned some years before the county and city acted to fill it in, remove the old building and build the current community center about 13 years ago, Simmons recalled. So he sees the current projects as picking up where that effort stopped.
“Again today we’re here to do some more improvements, the city and county working together,” Simmons said. “We’ve always wanted to make some more improvements, and this time we’re going to look after the needs of the children.”