Mayor: Rec. center part of attractive Laurinburg

LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee says it may try to revive the idea of a recreation center in Laurinburg.

The committee agreed last week to have Laurinburg Mayor Matthew Block to head up the effort after he presented the panel with a proposal for an indoor center. Block and the subcommittee would explore state and federal grants and public and private partnerships to help pay and sustain such a facility.

The mayor is expected to provide the Laurinburg City Council with a report from the advisory committee at tonight’s council meeting. Council meets at 7 p.m.

Block, who has repeatedly pushed for a recreational facility in Laurinburg, said it is “part and parcel” of having a community that is healthy and attractive.

“Having somewhere for kids to go is important,” he said. “But it is also part of being an attractive community that you have things like that.”

Block gave the advisory committee a proposed floor plan and sketch from Oakley Collier Architects of what the facility might look like.

The proposed 20,898-square foot center would be located on the just-cleared eight-acre lot owned by the McDonalds Brothers off South Main Street. The facility would include a gym, elevated walking track, multipurpose room, conference room, kitchen and two offices.

Block projected the center would cost about $3 million and the land another $1 million.

“That is about the ballpark,” Block said. “I’m not saying that it has to be here, but this is my wish list. Nothing is set in stone.”

Kathy Cox, who represents the Scotland County Health Department on the advisory committee, said recent health assessment surveys have shown that residents wants a safe place to walk and “a place for physical activity was a huge positive.”

But other committee members questioned the cost. They said a recreation center in the city was included in the Scotland County Parks and Recreation Master Plan five years ago. At that time a proposed center would have cost about $7.8 million to build and about $600,000 a year to maintain.

“It will come down to the city council and the county to fund it,” advisory committee member Ken Nichols said. “I think we are all supportive of the idea, but can we afford it?”

Committee member William Trivitte agreed.

“Even if someone gives us the facility, we are going to have to be able to keep that monster alive,” he said. “We have to figure out the funding piece.”

Block argued that the town of Wagram has been able to build and sustain its own recreation center. The 11,700-square-foot Wagram facility has a basketball court, volleyball, portable shuffleboard court, interior walking track, fitness room, two classrooms, and office.

“It is being done in Wagram and it hasn’t broken the bank,” Block said. “They have about 400 people and we have about 16,000. Why can’t it be done here?”

But Kisha Williams, manager for the Wagram Recreation Center, said the committee should not ignore that it already has a new county recreation center that is often under-utilized.

“We have to stop saying that we don’t have a recreation center for people to use because we do,” Williams said. “Some say it is 10 miles away and not in a central location, but they pass right by it going to do things in Fayetteville.”

County Commissioner Guy McCook, who also serves on the panel, said local leaders have discussed the idea of a recreation center in Laurinburg for about 15 years.

“The struggle is finding a way to pay for it,” he said.

McCook suggested that the problem may also have more to do with recreational programming.

“When people say they want a recreation center, we need to ask ourselves what are the needs we are not filling?” McCook said. Maybe there is a way to fill some of those gaps.”

Matthew Block Block

Scott Witten

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Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023


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