Johnson Legacy Center eyes opening in north Huntsville

single-meta-cal June 15, 2020

A premier indoor facility for meetings, fitness and play is coming soon to north Huntsville.

We’re talking about the Johnson Legacy Center, a $5.3 million redevelopment project at the former Johnson High School campus off Winchester Road. The hub, set to open in August, will be different from other rec centers in Huntsville.

“It will host a climbing wall, rubberized floor to play futsal, health club with exercise rooms and a sauna in the locker rooms,” said City of Huntsville Parks and Recreation Director Steve Ivey. “We feel we have the only facility like this within the area and hope that all our residents will come and enjoy it.”

Johnson Legacy Center vision

When complete, the former gymnasium will have a bright interior of teal blue and gold accents as a homage to the old Johnson High. It will feature an open floor plan with high ceilings and large glass walls, as well as gathering areas that look like co-working spaces and meeting rooms equipped with the latest technology.

Johnson Legacy Center will have volleyball and futsal courts and a new weight room and exercise area connecting the men’s and women’s dressing and locker rooms. Another highlight will be a 36-foot-high competitive rock climbing wall, which will be the first city-owned indoor climbing wall in Huntsville.

To honor Johnson alumni, a modern trophy case will display Johnson memorabilia and a Hall of Honor will recognize notable alumni and their achievements. Graduates will also be able to purchase named bricks to place in the entrance plaza.

We feel we have the only facility like this within the area and hope that all our residents will come and enjoy it.”

“There’s some unique aspects of the project that have been really cool to be part of and to see that vision take place,” said General Services Director Ricky Wilkinson.

Wilkinson said contractors are putting final touches on the fee-based facility before it opens this summer. Although COVID-19 has forced many businesses to shift their operations or close entirely, productivity hasn’t been an issue these last few months.

“All of the construction companies, all of the contractors have done a good job of ensuring that their employees are safe, that they’re practicing social distancing while on site,” Wilkinson said. “They brought out additional temporary facilities at the job sites that need those to not have so many single-touch points.”

More development

Wilkinson said he’s excited about what the complex brings to not only north Huntsville, but the entire City.

“I’ve got two small kids and I’m anxious to see them up there and to get an opportunity to check out the facility,” he said. “Even the comments from a lot of the workers on site, they’re pretty excited about it and looking forward to it opening. These guys take a lot of pride in being involved with the project and they’re excited to see it finish up as well.”

When Johnson closed in 2016, the City acquired the property and invited citizens to help flesh out a new purpose for the 44-acre site. A mixed-use development with new housing options, recreation opportunities, green space, and some complementary commercial or retail rose to the top of the wish list.

Four years later, work is underway to help revamp the remaining portions of the development, which will be completed in four phases.

Jim McGuffey, the City’s deputy director of urban and economic development, said a residential subdivision to the north is under construction as we speak.

“They are planning two phases of houses as part of this first development,” he said. “The overall master plan of this area will include more residences, but this is the first tract to start.”

The City will also redevelop Cecil Fain Drive, which connects the campus with Winchester Road. More single-family residences and commercial projects will take shape in the final phases of the project.

As Johnson Legacy Center nears opening, Mayor Tommy Battle said the City’s investment will serve as a catalyst for additional growth in north Huntsville.

“Johnson High School was an important part of our community for over four decades,” he said. “We hope this project will have a positive impact on quality of life in surrounding neighborhoods and help bring new investments to north Huntsville for years to come.”