New recreation complex under development at Bill Reynolds

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Since the inception of the Bainbridge-Decatur County Recreation Authority in 2015, members have been brainstorming ideas for a new, all-inclusive recreation facility.

It would be a place for gatherings and receptions, offer gymnasiums and outdoor space for play and be home to the Recreation Authority staff offices, which are currently located in a borrowed building from the City of Bainbridge on Shotwell Street.

The ideas are coming together, and with the help of architect Darrin Blankenship of ARCWORKS LLC, a concept has been put down on paper of what such a building might look like.

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“I’d say we are probably a year away from breaking ground,” said Al Kelley, Executive Director of the Recreation Authority.

“We’re still open to input from the community, but this is the concept.”

The facility will also feature a full commercial kitchen, multi-purpose rooms for gatherings and a designated space for the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame, which currently exists as more of an idea than a place. The Hall of Fame would feature plaques and other mementos from all who have been inducted since the first class in 2013.

Above all, Kelley wants the eventual facility to be useful to everyone, no matter their age.

“We want this facility to serve every age group in Decatur County,” said Kelley.

As drawn by Blankenship, the facility is one story and roughly 44,000-square feet. It will be located adjacent to the newly paved parking lot at the Bill Reynolds Sports Complex, to visitors’ left when coming in through the main entrance on Hubert Dollar Drive.

“When this Authority was created by the Bainbridge City Council and the Decatur County Commission as part of the Service Delivery Agreement, I believe the goal was to increase the recreation offerings for all Decatur County residents,” said Jeff Findley, Authority chairman. “In the first few years of operation, the Authority has been able to do that. But, with the addition of this facility, those offerings will increase greatly and opens a world of opportunities for our community. This will be one of the few buildings in the county that every resident would have a reason to visit.”

Recreation Authority members and staff have made trips to Americus, Cordele and Gainesville to take photos and notes on what similar recreation facilities looked like in those communities. Ideas have been shaped upon what these facilities looked like and offered, as well as the current and future recreational needs in Bainbridge.

“This facility would allow for volleyball, basketball, exercise possibilities such as yoga and aerobics, bingo, card games and rooms for rental functions which would include a kitchen and serving line,” said Recreation Authority member Carole Floyd. “The board members viewed this as a much-needed addition to the already strong adult and children’s programs being offered to our citizens.”

The project is expected to cost roughly $4 million and will be financed through a bond issue, with the debt paid for by existing revenue and added program revenue made possible from the new facility.

“It’s important to understand that this facility will be funded with existing revenues and the property tax allocation for the Recreation Authority will not increase,” Findley said. “At the same time, we fully expect non-tax revenue, the program-related revenue, to increase due to what this facility will allow the staff to offer.”

Currently, the Recreation Authority receives 1.25 mils annually, the overwhelming majority of its revenue.

Starting last fall, the Recreation Authority offered youth and adult soccer for the first time. Kelley and his staff would like to continue offering new programs and sports as they see a need and demand for them from the community.

“The programs are going to come to us and dictate what we offer,” said Kelley.

The Bainbridge-Decatur County Recreation Authority meets on the third Thursday of every month, with its next meeting on April 19.