It would cost $350,000 to remove concrete bleachers that have been built into the new Avondale Recreation Center, Mayor Andy Berke's chief of staff told the City Council on Tuesday night.
Stacy Richardson said that amount does not include any funds for replacement bleachers.
She also said that restrooms and locker rooms are situated under the concrete bleachers and they would be lost if the concrete is knocked down.
After her presentation on the new $6 million center that is under construction and slated to open next spring a line of Avondale residents voiced concerns about the concrete bleachers and the fact the new center is built so close to the busy corner of Wilcox Boulevard and Dodson Avenue.
Former Parks and Recreation supervisor Kenneth "Super T" Simpson said the city "did a bait and switch" in putting in the concrete gym seating. He said every other rec center gym he knows about has metal or wood retractable seating.
"Why are we not the norm?" he asked.
He also said, "It's hard to sit on concrete. And when you get older you don't want to sit on concrete." He said that would keep some older people from coming to watch their grandkids play ball.
Mr. Simpson said, "In 2018, we go back to something from the 1970s. Something is wrong."
Ken Smith, an Avondale community leader, said the residents are excited about getting the much-larger, brand-new facility. However, he said many don't want the concrete.
He said he expects some child will be skate boarding down them.
County Commissioner Warren Mackey expressed similar concerns, saying many fear that children will run into a concrete wall and be hurt.
Tony Boston also hit the hard seating. He said putting showers under concrete is going to lead to mold.
Ms. Richardson said the Berke administration decided to make a major investment at Avondale because the current center is one of the oldest and smallest in the system. She said the new center will be one of the largest.
She said there will be a rear bus dropoff for loading and unloading children.
Ms. Richardson said the city is spending more on the Avondale center than it did on Miller Park. Much of its cost of over $10 million came from the private sector.
Jason McKinney, project administrator and deputy director of Youth and Family Development, said community concerns that the basketball court will not be regulation are unfounded. He said the court playing area will be high school regulation 50x84 feet and with a safety zone the area is 67x104 feet.
He said the current center is 5,617 square feet and the new one will be 22,550 square feet and also include a library, dance studio, art room, kitchen and teen center.
Mr. McKinney said, "This is going to be a great center."
Councilman Anthony Byrd expressed a number of concerns that community members still have. He asked for answers to take back.
Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod suggested there may be a solution to the concrete seating issue. She said Maclellan Gym and the UTC Arena both have concrete seats, but have plastic seating fastened on top. "Maybe that's a solution," she said.
She said the Eastdale center is just now getting "roll out" bleachers with three rows "and here we're fighting over concrete bleachers."
She said, "This should not take away from the great things this center will bring."