BTW Rec Center redevelopment kicks off with a public open house

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Representatives from Barker Rinker Seacat (BRS) Architecture hosted a community workshop on Wednesday evening at the Booker T. Washington Recreation Center, along with Vice Mayor Carla Gunn and Parks and Recreation Director Jody Baker, to present their feasibility study for the new facility and to obtain input from residents. 

The replacement of the former school was part of last year’s $41M GO Bond. It was determined that renovating the current structure would be cost-prohibitive, due to its lack of ADA-accessibility, among other architectural details. 

The new center will be southwest of the current one, on the northeast corner of Gray and Johnson. A Steering Committee, including BTW Director Rick Bruner, Vice Mayor Gunn, and City Councilor Brian Stephens, has met with BRS to establish an overall view of the project, and Wednesday was the first of several times they will present the plan to the public in order to gauge interest and to listen to suggestions. 

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The workshop was similar to that of the Downtown Master Plan’s, in that the consultants explained their ultimate vision and what can and cannot be accomplished, considering the budget, and then attendees were able to browse displays of possible features and add stickers to the five of them that they considered the top priorities.  

BRS planner and architect Mick Massey explained that they have come up with two viable options. Option A includes two full-sized high school basketball courts but not as many additional amenities, as the courts eat up most of the budget. Option B includes just one court, but a multitude of other features for the entire community’s use. 

These possible features (only a handful of which will come to fruition)  include a rock climbing wall, short-term childcare, a dedicated indoor track for walkers and runners, a fitness area with cardio and weight machines, classrooms, an event hall, party rooms that can be rented out for birthdays and other events, a lounge for socializing and visiting, an outdoor gathering and meeting space, a remembrance garden at the original site, a catering kitchen to facilitate weddings, quinceaneras, and other big events, an esports room, an indoor playground, and an outdoor splashground. 

The main focus, of course, is on the basketball court. Massey said the steering committee “started with the gym, and all the players who have walked on its floors.” They asked themselves, “What about the new generation of players? Where’s the balance of how much of the new building should be gym space and how much of it dedicated to other uses?”

Bruner’s son Rick Bruner, Jr., Sapulpa High School’s head basketball coach, spoke about the influence the BTW gym has had on him and so many other Sapulpans, saying, “This is the place where we learned to be men. It’s not just about a game, but about life.” 

Massey said that they are looking to Booker T. Washington himself for inspiration to do justice to the history and spirit the building embodies. He stated that Washington’s values included service, accountability, and “courteous leadership.” He believed in helping those in need, nurturing the mind, body, and spirit, accepting everyone, building character, doing the right thing, taking ownership, and having pride in one’s community. 

Ergo, BRS and the Steering Committee are determined to “do this the right way, not half way. The choices we make here will last a lifetime,” Massey said. 

The total projected cost of the project was estimated to be around $7.5M last year when the bond proposal was created. However, Massey explained that cost escalation is a factor, as construction will likely not begin until 2023 and finish until 2025. Every year the hard and soft costs increase by around $250-300K. This “motivates us to make good decisions quickly,” he said, and to “execute a good working plan soon. Time is money.”  

“Cost recovery” goals are therefore another factor of the plan. “It must be affordable” to the public, but there is a fiscal responsibility on behalf of the City to keep costs as close to the original budgeted amount as possible while “giving access to everyone.” 

Possible revenue generators include hosting tournaments in the gymnasium, rental of the event hall and party room, offering programs and classes for a fee, and annual or daily admissions. 

BRS will return in six weeks for another community open house and would love for as many people to attend and give feedback as possible. Sapulpa Times will announce the date and time beforehand. All are encouraged to attend and participate.