published Saturday, April 21st, 2012

City paving way for recreation center at former Hixson Middle School


by Cliff Hightower
A backhoe works inside the area of the former Hixson Middle School gym as demolition is underway at the recently closed facility on School Drive. A new city recreation center is slated for the property.
A backhoe works inside the area of the former Hixson Middle School gym as demolition is underway at the recently closed facility on School Drive. A new city recreation center is slated for the property.
Photo by Tim Barber.

TAKE THE SURVEY


Go to the Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Facebook page at www.facebook.com/chattanooga.parks.recreation and take a survey about the Hixson Recreation Center or call the city's Recreation Department at 423-643-6081.

An excavator works at the old Hixson Middle School, tearing down walls and tearing up floors in the old building.

In a matter of months, a brand-new city recreation center will take its place.

Demolition is ongoing at the old school to make room for the new facility, said Larry Zehnder, Chattanooga's director of Parks and Recreation.

"They have 60 days to complete the demolition," he said.

The city has been in the process of turning the old middle school into a recreation center for two years after acquiring the property from the county and Hamilton County Schools. Zehnder said the center will open officially the first week of June.

Recently, it has housed some driver's education courses, but nothing else, he said.

"The general public has not been invited into the building yet," he said.

Sain Construction Co., of Manchester, Tenn., is in the process of demolishing several of the old buildings. Once that is completed, the area will be grassed over to create a large greenspace, Zehnder said.

Sain Construction is doing the demolition for about $500,000, Zehnder said.

The city's master plan calls for much of the school's back parking lot to be ripped up and grassed over, but that will happen in a second phase.

Barbara Readnower, who is overseeing the Hixson Recreation Center project, said the staff plans to begin moving in equipment and material on May 7. The first program at the facility will be June 4, she said.

The center will include a multimedia room, computer lab, game room and an art studio.

Eventually in the second phase, the city also plans to include a fitness center and a theater.

"There is going to be a lot packed in there," Readnower said.

Eric Jelinski, assistant director of recreation for Chattanooga Parks and Recreation, said senior programs, youth programs and a summer camp will be offered at the site.

"There will be something for everyone," he said. "It'll completely transform."

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