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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Winter Haven City Commission Approves Redevelopment of Recreational & Cultural Center 

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Winter Haven City Commission Approves Redevelopment of Recreational & Cultural Center

by James Coulter

For more than 50 years, the Winter Haven Recreational & Cultural Center has served generations of young people in the Florence Villa neighborhood. Now the old building is planned to be torn down and a new modern facility built in its place.

Last Monday evening, the Winter Haven City Commission voted unanimously to authorize the City Manager to proceed with the complete redevelopment of the recreational center as opposed to implementing traditional renovations to the existing facility.

City Manager T. Michael Stavres will now move forward with overseeing the finalizing of the overall full-site masterplan for a new facility and amenities, which will include, according to the commission agenda, “site surveying, engineering, and permitting.”

Though the plan has not been finalized, the new facility is expected to include a larger gymnasium and new amenities including a fitness center, library, swimming pool, and splash pad. The planning process is expected to take 10 months, and the construction is expected to take 12 months, Stavres stated.

“The current budget for the WHRCC Improvement Project is approximately $14.12 million. This budget will be used to complete the master planning, architectural design, related engineering and permitting, and construction costs associated with the project,” the commission agenda stated.

Since 2017, the City has contemplated renovations to the recreational center, which was constructed in 1974. Initially, these potential renovations included bringing the facility up-to-date with ADA standards and improving the fitness center. However, following surveys conducted by Straughn Trout Architects and increased budgets over the following years, the overall project shifted to “a complete rebuild versus a traditional renovation.”

Last month, two public meetings were hosted at the recreational city seeking input from the community about whether to renovate the existing building or build a new facility. As the commission agenda stated: “Through the survey process and the public meetings held, the overwhelming sentiment from the public and those Advisory Board members who attended the sessions is to redevelop the entire site, versus pursuing a traditional renovation effort.”

The two public meetings, hosted on May 12 and 26, wereattended by 150 people, with 100 on the first meeting and 40 on the second meeting. Starves claimed that the overall turnout and reception were the best he has ever experienced at any public meeting. “That is a great turnout for public information-gathering sessions that are held for our projects, and I wish we could see that for all of them,” he said.

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