Binghampton community center to get big makeover

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 6:57 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The historic Lester Community Center in Binghampton is about to get a multi-million-dollar makeover.

At the Benjamin Hooks Library Monday night, it was the second of three community input meetings to hear from stakeholders about what features they’d like to see in a brand-new facility.

It was there that a small group of residents heard the big news about the city’s plan to build a new, $15 million community center.

City leaders say basketball is a top focus.

The Lester Community Center is where Memphis Tigers and NBA great Penny Hardaway played and coached games.

But after getting feedback, officials know two other things are important to people who use the center: an indoor swimming pool and a walking track.

Attendees of Monday’s meeting say they feel like their voices are being heard.

“You know what? What I saw was inclusiveness,” said Jo Ann Street.

For the kids, a new basketball court is planned, with enough seating to accommodate tournaments.

“I saw the spacing of activities so that children can find themselves in a world that is not so negative,” Street continued.

Early designs also include an indoor swimming pool, which would be the fifth indoor pool for the City of Memphis.

“The splash pads are a great way to get kids introduced to pools,” said Memphis Parks Director Nick Walker. “Outdoor pools are great for recreation in the summer. But in order to teach kids [to swim] in Memphis, which is a huge need, we need to have publicly accessible indoor pools.”

For the older generation, the new community center will have an elevated walking track, which would be one of only three indoor walking tracks in the park’s division.

“You can walk inside whatever the weather is on Channel 5,” said Eula Burchfield Smith. “Whatever the weather is, we can walk inside and be comfortable and safe.”

Burchfield Smith graduated from Lester High School and suggested the center’s new colors be gold and black, just like the Lester Lions.

City leaders and architects welcomed all suggestions in order to create a community center for everyone, but especially one that will put children on the path to success.

”This is going to be huge, and we’re really looking forward to seeing the impact it’s going to have... because this is a generational facility,” Walker said. “We want to make sure the spaces are adaptable for many things like educational opportunities to cooking classes to community events.”

“The children will learn to swim, learn to look out for each other,” Street said, “and I just think if we do that, the world will be a safer place to live... and fun, too!”

Walker said the Parks Division will ask Memphis City Council on Tuesday for an additional $3 million, making the final price tag $18 million.

The new Lester Community Center will be built next to the old one on Tillman Street, and the old one will be torn down after the new building opens.

Construction is slated to start in the summer of 2023 with competition by the summer of 2025.

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