Political promises aren’t always kept but in regards to the new $23.5 million, 64,000-square-foot Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation and Aquatic Center, Mayor Kasim Reed delivered. The former Martin Luther King, Jr. Natatorium was closed back in 2012 due to structural concerns and Mayor Reed made a promise to the Old Fourth Ward community to rebuild.
The facility, which was rededicated in a ceremony on Mon., Oct. 30, includes a 25-yard lap pool, the City’s first zero-entry indoor pool, fitness and weight room, climbing wall, multi-use event area accommodating more than 200 people, recreation classrooms, a senior center, a multi-purpose gymnasium, an indoor walking and jogging track, a lounge and workroom area, a computer lab, locker rooms and recreation staff offices.
“It was an honor to cut the ribbon on the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation and Aquatic Center today with Dr. Bernice King, surrounded by community members,” Reed said. “Atlanta is the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and every building, street, and monument bearing his name should be representative of Dr. King’s life and legacy.
“The recreation and aquatic center offers best-in-class design and amenities and is accessible by MARTA and the Atlanta Streetcar,” he continued. “The new Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation and Aquatic Center is a place for everyone, and we hope that all of our residents look to this facility as a source of pride and connection.”
Bernice King, the daughter of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said she remembers when the natatorium was closed and how hurt she felt about the community that loved it. She said the new facility offered the hope for something new for the community and she pointed out how the image of her father Dr. King on the side of the building was a reflection of her father.
“We are back even bigger, better, more beautiful, more magnificent & more wonderful and we are truly grateful,” King said. “I hope that this facility will serve as an opportunity for generations to connect. We have lost that sense of connection, from generation to generation.”
Mayor Reed has reopened all of the city’s recreation centers and formed partnerships to invest more than $6 million in philanthropic dollars in Centers of Hope. More than 3,500 young people receive leadership development training, participate in modern technology courses, and experience true mentorship at Centers of Hope each year.
In addition, the department acquired an additional 171 acres of land in the City of Atlanta which includes 15 new parks. As a result, 64 percent of Atlanta residents live within a half-mile walk of a park.
Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Amy Phuong thanked Mayor Reed and all that were involved in making this happen for the Old Fourth Ward.