CORNELIUS – Area residents will have the opportunity later this month to see the nearly final details of a county recreational facility envisioned more than two decades ago to serve the north Mecklenburg community.

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation will host a public meeting highlighting its Northern Regional Recreation Center starting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Bailey Middle School. The event, according to Kevin Brickman, senior planner with the county department, will include the unveiling of specific plans about the facility.

“They will have the chance to see pretty much what we expect it to look like,” Brickman said.

Brickman said the public meeting, the third since the north Mecklenburg project moved from “anticipated” to “active” on the county’s to-do list in 2017, is expected to be the final public meeting about the center prior to groundbreaking ceremonies this summer marking the start of construction.

The planned $40 million recreational facility will be built on a 41-acre county-owned site at 18121 Old Statesville Road near the Cornelius-Huntersville border. The site has frontage on Old Statesville Road (N.C. 115) and extends to the west adjacent to the EnergyUnited Electric Cooperative office.

Brickman said the current schedule for the project calls for demolition of some existing structures, cleanup work and site-clearing efforts to begin on the property by mid to late summer 2019. The facility is expected to be ready for use by fall of 2021.

A long time coming

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The Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department's timeline for the Northern Regional Recreation Center.

The idea for a northern Mecklenburg recreation facility was the topic of discussion in the 1990s. In 2008, plans for four regional recreation centers – one each in the northern, southern, eastern and western parts of the county – were referenced in a $250 million recreation bond package approved by county voters.

In the years that followed, elected officials and residents in Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson continued to push for the project to become a recreation department priority. In August 2017, according to Brickman, the county initiated plans for the northern project. In March 2018, a three-hour kickoff was held at Bailey Middle to initiate public input on the facility.

A follow-up meeting, incorporating ideas and suggestions shared at the March session, was held in July. The meeting later this month, Brickman said, will give residents the chance to see how expressed priorities have been incorporated into the facility.

A public design

“This will be built based on the input from the public-engagement sessions,” Brickman said. “At the meetings, we asked participants what to include – the elements they would like to see.”

He said programs and project pieces prioritized in March were part of the July presentation, where ideas were tweaked and more specific suggestions were compiled.

“Everything is based on the input and feedback we received. It has been a completely cumulative process,” he said about July’s ideas being added to the plan. “The meeting later this month is an opportunity for us to show people ‘we heard you’ and provide a chance for them to see exactly what the community recommended. I imagine we’ll see a lot of the same people – those who have demonstrated a real interest from the start.”

Brickman said the placement of the facility on the parcel involved logistical and budgetary considerations – “closer to N.C. 115 is less expensive,” he said – and at the February meeting participants will have the chance to see the anticipated layout.

“We’ll have floor-plan designs and building elevations,” he said, adding he didn’t want to publicly release drawings of the facility before the meeting.

He did say that two “aquatic pieces” are a part of the plans. They include

a shallow play area, with slides and other amenities designed as a place for younger children, and an eight-lane exercise pool. He said the project is still in the “design-development” stage and it is possible some minor adjustments could be made, but added the design presented at the meeting will “pretty much be the final drawing of the plan.”

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