Progress to come for the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Center

Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 6:42 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It’s the moment so many have been waiting for. The Martin Luther King Junior Recreational Center is just a few weeks away from being torn down, and a brand new state-of-the-art recreational center will be taking its place.

What many considered to be the heart of Glenwood, has been a missing piece in the community for more than three years.

“This rec center was a pillar in the community,” community activist Robert Stewart said. “The wait has been so long.”

Finally, progress is expected to come for the MLK Rec Center. City officials said the building will be demolished early to mid-August, making room for the sleek new center that will take its place.

“There’s going to be a multi-court gym. There’s going to be outdoor basketball components. There’s a 12,000 square foot recreation facility with a stem and technology lab, an art room, fitness rooms, teaching, and test kitchens and recording and editing studies,” Jared Jones, Assistant City Manager for the City of Panama City, said.

The nearly $15 million project is mainly being paid for through FEMA. Because of that, it’s going to be built in phases.

“Because every piece of ground that we disturb that wasn’t part of the original footprint of the building has to go through a federal review process,” Jones said.

It’s not a quick process, but community members said any progress is still progress.

“If you see a wrecking ball come through or a building get knocked down or a wall, anything is just progress,” Stewart said. “We’ve been hearing about it for years but to see progress builds hope. And we need hope.”

City leaders said they’re hoping to break ground on the new building towards the end of this year, and are aiming to have the center open in 2024.

Aside from the MLK Rec Center, officials also released some of the latest updates on a few other parks nearby. Joe Moody Park is about 60% complete with renovation plans. The concession stand and restrooms have been updated at Woods Field. Kraft Field should be ready to go in time for youth football season.

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