Handy Recreation Center future could be up in the air

WAFF 48s Aria Pons Reporting
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 6:47 PM CDT
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FLORENCE, Ala. (WAFF) - Leaders in Florence want to renovate the Handy Recreation Center and have already put out construction bids.

A bid for construction was put out on September 9. Many community members and city council members agree the center needs to be updated, but many in the community believe renovations may not go far enough.

The renovations will include new plumbing, repainting the walls, upgrades to the kitchen and recreation areas, new fencing around the pool, shades to go over the pool area and more.

Kaytrina Simmons represents the part of town the Handy Recreation Center is in on Florence City Council. She said the city was already planning renovations but it does not have to go forward with those plans.

She wants the center’s future to be determined by the community. Tuesday night, many community members spoke to city council about building a new center instead of renovating the existing one.

“There was so much going on and I think we need to wait on that and bring the community back,” Simmons said. “I feel like we owe them that much of respect to listen to them. That’s not to say that we are able to do everything that a person asks of us but we should able to explore it to see if we can do so.”

The architect who is working on the renovation project says it will cost between $600,000 and $1 million.

It will include new shades around the pool outside and upgrades to the kitchen and recreation room areas. He said building a new recreation center would cost three to four times as much.

“The needs are quite simple. The children need space to run. the one room they have that’s available to them has a massive pool table in the center of it. We took our children to the kiddie pool and their feet got cut with glass.”

Camille Bennett said she owns two daycare centers near the Handy Recreation Center and takes children there frequently. She said she just wants a safe environment for the kids.

“I’m open to whatever possibilities arise that lead to a safe place for the children,” Bennett said. “I’m not attached one idea or the other. I just want it to be reconciled and I want us to have a space that’s welcoming and that reflects the beautiful community of West Florence.”

For now, Simmons said she hopes the council will pump the brakes and look more closely into what the community wants. There will be another community meeting held to discuss the Handy Recreation Center as well as other topics on October 2 at 6 p.m.

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