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Gyms, pools and fieldhouses: Detroit plans largest investment in recreation centers in decades

Renderings of the new Dexter-Elmhurst Recreation Center and a new full-sized dome covered field in Chandler Park in Detroit.
Briana Rice
Michigan Radio
Renderings of the new Dexter-Elmhurst Recreation Center and a new full-sized dome covered field in Chandler Park in Detroit.

New gymnasiums. A new amphitheater. A dome-covered football field.

Detroit is planning to renovate, expand, or reopen 11 recreation centers.

This includes the demolition and rebuilding of the Dexter-Elmhurst Center, which closed in 2019 due to lack of funding.

Inside, tiles and ceilings have fallen. There's water damage in the gym and in the cafeteria.

With the newly allocated city funding, the center will be demolished and reopened in 2024 with new indoor sports facilities, community rooms, and a kitchen space.

It will cost over $8 million, city officials said.

Helen Moore, who has been advocating for the Dexter-Elmhurst Center for years, said the new facility is needed.

"This certainly is the place that people come, not only when they’re in trouble — I’m talking about the law — They come here when they are in need of food. They come here when they’re in need of recreation," Moore said.

The center on the West Side of Detroit is surrounded by abandoned houses and buildings.

Some are up for demolition right now, according to Brad Dick, the city's director of general services.

Detroit Councilmember Fred Durhal said the recreation center projects are also opportunities to take a look at the neighborhoods around them and address blight.

"These homes that are vacant that are surrounding this center have been a detriment, not only to children’s safety but just to the community. They’ve been eyesores," Durhal said. "I think we’ll be very focused on fixing communities around us."

Officials said renovating or rebuilding the 11 recreation centers across Detroit will cost about $45 million, funded by American Rescue Plan Act, city bond financing, and donations.

The city council will need to approve the projects.

On the city's east side, officials will rebuild the vacant Lenox Community Center. It will be a new solar-powered recreation center that will double as a "community resilience hub" for residents experiencing power outages, according to a press release.

The city lists 12 completed, planned, and underway projects, including the 11 recreation centers:

  • Dexter-Elmhurst
  • Chandler Park
  • Farwell
  • State Fair Band Shell
  • Adams Butzel
  • Coleman Young
  • Butzel Family
  • Heilmann
  • Patton Rec Center
  • Crowell
  • Clemente
  • Lenox
Briana Rice is a reporter/producer operating out of Detroit.
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