Sanford ready to create new east-side rec center on former Seminole school board land

GrowthSpotter contributor

Residents of Sanford’s east side have long desired a recreation center where kids can play and adults can congregate and get needed services.

Those wishes are closer to reality now that the city has acquired 7.21 acres from the Seminole County School Board, property the city has long eyed as the site for a needed east-side rec center.

The city paid $1,111,344 for the land at Mellonville and Celery avenues, according to a deed filed in Seminole County on Feb. 28. The purchase included the 18,000-square-foot Assistive Technology Educational Network (ATEN) building Sanford will renovate and possibly expand with a new gymnasium, according to Deputy City Manager Tom George. Other planned additions include two new multi-sport athletic fields and an exercise trail.

“We’ve been talking to the school board about this property for over 10 years,” George told GrowthSpotter. “It will be a recreation center. We don’t have anything like that for the residents on the east side. We do have a west-side recreation center.”

City staffers have a conceptual plan for the property that they will discuss with the City Commission on March 25 at a 4 p.m. work session. Commissioners have indicated in past conversations their support for the recreation center.

“They already have ideas about how they want to use it,” George said, referring to the commissioners. “They have already been approached by some teams that need multipurpose fields.”

City staffers have compiled an initial list of improvements they estimate will cost $1,248,000. In addition to the sports fields and the exercise trail and stations, the list of proposed amenities includes a 30-by-40-foot playground, picnic tables and pavilions, landscaping and irrigation, seating and signs. Needed repairs to the parking lot are also in the package.

A gymnasium is on a future to-do list and not part of the $1,248,000.

Funding sources include a Florida Communities Trust grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which will provide $600,000 over two years. Other funding sources: recreational impact fees of $100,000 in the first year and possibly $285,000 later; Seminole County, $200,000; and a playground grant from the nonprofit playground group KaBOOM!, $63,000.

The city leased the property from the school board starting in January 2014 and has used the ATEN building for neighborhood meetings, police and fire training, and a daytime summer children’s program.

“We would like to do more mentoring, vocational services, some services for seniors,” George said. “There are community center homeowners’ meetings there in the evening. The police department might have a substation there. It would be a true community center.” 

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