City looks to build gym for youth sports programs

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(Posted Sept. 7, 2022)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

London city leaders are looking into tearing down the building currently used for youth sports programs and replacing it with a steel building at another location.

For years, the city has used the gymnasium in the former school building adjacent to city hall on Walnut Street for youth basketball and volleyball. Built in 1913, the building is deteriorating. Earlier this year, the Ohio Department of Development awarded the city a $461,400 grant to demolish the building.

“It’s well past its prime, and urban renewal needs to take place. The decay of that building on this blighted corner needs to make way for new opportunities,” said Mayor Patrick Closser at the Sept. 1 city council meeting.

“We have done our due diligence on this building, trying to get it occupied or sold,” he continued. “We have had many developers come in and, after walking through the building, they were not interested in the least, even if we were willing to give it to them.”

The $461,400 grant will save the taxpayers money, he added.

“If we were not able to secure this grant, there is no doubt in my mind that within the next five to 10 years that building would still be empty and we would be forced to tear it down at the city’s expense,” Closser said.

The state requires that the demolition be completed by May 2023. The grant covers the demolition, hauling of debris, filling of the land, landscaping, and new sidewalks. Closser reported that council member Andy Hitt plans to bring forth legislation at the Sept. 15 meeting to accept the grant and put the demolition project out to bid.

In the meantime, city leaders are working with an architect on plans for a steel building to house youth sports. The basic floor plan would give the city approximately the same amount of gym floor space as it has now in the old building. The new building also would contain bathrooms, concession stands, a small office, a storage room and a mechanical room.

“We’re not looking to build the Taj Mahal but a functional steel building gym so we can continue to offer youth athletics and continue to grow our programs while giving the youth of this community something constructive to do,” Closser said.

The proposed location for the building is the corner of School and First streets next to the bus garage on the city hall campus. That could change, Closser noted.

Once the initial drawings are complete, the architects will come up with a cost estimate. The city hopes to forge a private-public partnership to cover the cost.

“We’re in talks with some local citizens who may be willing to donate some money to it. The money that can’t be covered by private donations, the city likely would cover through debt service,” Closser said.

He added, “We are in the initial steps of this process but want to be transparent and let the community know what we are looking to do.”

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