– Local officials and residents gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 9 for the construction of the new L.B. Ahrens Recreation Center to build at Cherokee Veterans Park.
“We’ve achieved a lot through the use of SPLOST and park bond funds to make this project happen,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Harry Johnston. “In fact, this project will utilize the last bit of funding from the 2008 parks bond.” The Board approved the construction contract on July 20 of the L.B. Ahrens Recreation Center to Reeves Young, LLC in the amount of $10.4 million and an additional $1.58 million in a county-controlled contingency.
“This project has been a long time coming for the residents in my district,” said District 1 Commissioner Steve West, who represents the area. “I want to thank my fellow commissioners both previous and current for their help in getting this project off the ground.”
The first phase of the recreation center, known in short as “The Buzz” in honor of former Commission Chairman L.B. “Buzz” Ahrens, includes a double gym, open fitness area, climbing wall, two classrooms, aerobics/dance studio, a large meeting hall with catering kitchen and an office suite along with accompanying restrooms, mechanical, electrical and storage areas. The construction services contract also includes a secondary parking lot, pedestrian crossing to the park playground and infrastructure for EV charging stations. Construction is expected to last 15 months with an anticipated opening in late 2022.
“The message I want to convey is how principal, priorities, execution and fiscal integrity are woven into this world-class amenity,” said Ahrens, who provided comments in a pre-recorded message. Ahrens explained that in the mid 2000’s he saw the need for the county to have more active parks and greenspace. In 2008, Cherokee voters went to the polls and approved a $90 million-dollar parks and greenspace bond. The county then purchased the property for Cherokee Veterans Park in 2009 as one of the first purchases utilizing park bond funds. By 2017, all park bond funds had been committed and the recreation center project began with no funding or timeline. Eventually funds were generated through SPLOST collections and in 2018 the Veterans Memorial Monument was added to the park leading up to the construction of the recreation center.
“The sports metaphor is applicable here because team sports, for example, helps us learn how to function well as teams, which is something that Buzz did with the Board of Commissioners,” said Johnston. “Buzz took the agendas from five different commissioners with their own thoughts and ideas and despite their differences he brought everyone together to work as a team for the betterment of Cherokee County.”