The renovations at Miller Gym, once a staple of Army life at Fort McClellan, will be complete by the start of 2012, and Anniston Parks and Recreation will start moving in soon after.
The building has added a new pool wing and entrance along with a second story with several meeting rooms. That, along with improvements to the sports fields, will give area residents access to a sports complex that rivals those found in Birmingham, Huntsville and Auburn, said Steven Folks, director of Parks and Recreation for the city.
The city has invested $4.5 million into the complex to make it a recreational destination, Folks said.
“We’re not just talking about swim meets,” he said. “We’re talking about helping the public quality of life.”
Although the building will be essentially finished by the end of the year, the fitness equipment won’t be delivered for several months. The city will open the bids for the equipment next week, and the chosen company will then have 90 days to move the equipment into the building. In addition, each one of the meeting rooms will be wired for audio-visual equipment, and the entire building will be equipped with a sprinkler system before it is opened, Folks said.
The renovations will allow Anniston to host state and other large events it was unable to host before.
“We were hosting events at Truman (Gym), but we were very limited as to what we could host,” Folks said. “That’s one of the things we looked at is how can we open up more.”
Folks didn’t want to comment on what the city would do with Truman Gym once the new complex is open.
The pool at the renovated Miller Gym -– an eight-lane, Olympic-sized pool –- will meet the requirement to host USA Swimming events, said Jay Jenkins of Munroe Jenkins, the architectural firm that designed the project. The work on the sports fields will allow the city to host larger sports events.
“The fruits of the effort have already started to yield results,” Jenkins said.
Resurfacing the track has already allowed the city to land a Hershey’s Track and Field state meet in May, he said. The meets, sponsored by Hershey’s, are for youth ages 9 to 14, and take place in every state or province in the U.S. and Canada.
The complex will add to the offerings in the community, Folks said. The community centers will remain open, allowing people to use those in addition to the new offerings at McClellan. The sports complex will be available for competitions and for residents to use the same way they use other community centers. Rates for the new complex have not yet been set, but current members of the gym at McClellan will be able to roll over their membership to the new complex, Folks said.
“There are folks waiting,” Jenkins said with a laugh, adding he gets calls every day asking when the sports complex will open.
The sports complex came to be after City Council members approved applying for a Recovery Zone Bond back in April 2010.
They requested $6.5 million but were awarded $5.3 million by the Calhoun County Commission, which was charged with disbursing the bonds.
The city also used the funding for road work in Anniston, some improvements of the outdoor sports fields at McClellan, renovation of the old youth center to become a senior citizen and therapeutic center, as well as the renovations of Miller Sports Arena.Mayor Gene Robinson supported the sports complex because he sees it as both a quality-of-life enhancement for residents and an economic generator for the city as it pulls out-of-town competitors and sports enthusiasts to Anniston.
“It’s just a good project for not only the citizens but for our city,” Robinson said.
During this project, the city has taken steps to stretch those funding dollars. For instance, city maintenance workers did the painting in the basketball gym, Jenkins said.
“There’s been a real effort to keep costs down in every way,” he said.
Still, the plans have expanded since the project began thanks to a property transfer by the McClellan Development Authority, and the city may have to supplement with some more funding to get the last projects done, Jenkins said.
The authority transferred the old base theater across the street from the sports complex in July to the city. The theater will be razed to make way for additional parking. Jenkins also would like to add a pavilion near the McClellan duck pond for more recreational opportunities in the vicinity of the sports complex.
Ultimately, it will be up to the City Council to determine if and when that part of the project will be funded, Jenkins said. Robinson said he would like to see the whole project finished even if it means dipping into reserves slightly.
“When projects get stalled, sometimes it takes a long time to really get them going,” the mayor said. “The multi-modal is a prime example. They ran into problems and this project is still not finished, years and years later.”
Clinton Woods of C.W. Woods Contracting said working on the project has been exciting.
“We build buildings all the time,” he said. “The vision that these people in Anniston have, you can just see it. It started out as a weight room and pool, and it’s turning into really a true complex.”
Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.