Year in Review: Huntsville breaks new ground in parks and recreation

single-meta-cal December 9, 2022

About nine out of 10 U.S. adults surveyed in 2021 said it’s important for local government to invest in community infrastructure, including parks, community centers and recreation facilities.

The results reflect what City leaders have long known – a high quality of life is as vital to citizens as other key factors, such as road improvements and job expansion.

Over the past year, the City has committed over $60 million to its recreation offerings, building new facilities and renovating existing spaces. More importantly, Huntsville Parks & Recreation continues to provide dozens of free, year-round programs to youth, adults and seniors, from exercise and fitness classes to art workshops and organized athletics.

Ongoing projects

Sandra Moon Community Complex

One of the City’s most ambitious projects is the Sandra Moon Community Complex, which is also home to the South Huntsville Library, multiuse athletic fields and 12 lighted, outdoor pickleball courts.

An exterior shot of the Sandra Moon Community Complex. The building is gray and white and very modern. There is a tree at right and green grass.

Construction on the second phase of the Sandra Moon Community Complex will wrap up in 2023.

Construction began on the second phase in 2022 – an extensive interior renovation of the old Grissom High’s main southside building – and is scheduled for completion in spring 2023. This phase will include a new performing arts center, overseen by Arts Huntsville. Phase 3 will bring a playground and additional parking.

“I think when it’s done, it will be one of our crown jewels in Huntsville,” said Parks & Recreation Director James Gossett. “Especially when you look at the level of activities and programs, and the wide range of people who can use that center.”

John Hunt Park

At nearly 450 acres, John Hunt Park continues to serve as Huntsville’s own “Central Park.” Over the past year, it’s hosted everything from the inaugural Eggstravaganza, which drew about 5,000 people, to sand volleyball and cross-country championships, which attracted athletes and fans from around the world.

Four players play a soccer match on a field in Huntsville. Two players are in orange, while the other two are in white. They are trying to get possession of the ball.

The City announced it would add two new turf fields at John Hunt Park that should bring additional interest from soccer and lacrosse tournaments.

The soccer facilities include two championship fields. This year, the City approved a second championship phase at John Hunt Park. Two new turf fields, a press box and locker room are expected to bring additional interest from soccer and lacrosse tournaments.

The park, already home to a mountain bike course, will also soon offer an 18-hole disc golf course. The course, the City’s seventh, is currently under construction. Once complete, it will be a boon to local players of this growing sport, while also attracting large-scale events.

When it comes to popular sports, there may be no hotter craze than pickleball. The John Hunt Park Recreation Center, adjacent to Joe Davis Stadium, will include outdoor pickleball courts that can accommodate tournament play. There will also be four full-size gymnasiums, a fitness center and more. The 53,000-square-foot center on Leeman Ferry Road is targeted for completion in spring 2024.

Huntsville Parks & Recreation staff try out the fitness equipment at the outdoor fitness court at John Hunt Park. They are wearing exercise workout gear.

Huntsville Parks & Recreation staff try out the equipment at the outdoor Fitness Court at John Hunt Park.

Also at John Hunt Park is Huntsville’s first outdoor Fitness Court, a collaboration between the City, Arts Huntsville and the National Fitness Campaign. The court, which opened in November, allows users to complete a free, full-body workout in just seven minutes. Future courts are planned for Apollo Park at MidCity and Johnson Legacy Park.

Serving all ages

Still under construction are projects that define what quality of life means to Huntsville’s youth and senior populations.

An aerial view of the new Get-A-Way Skatepark. There are bowls poured and much red dirt all around the site.

The Get-A-Way Skatepark represents a successful collaboration between the City, Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville and Team Pain Skate Parks (photo courtesy of Sellers Photo).

This year’s groundbreaking of the 52,000-square-foot Get-A-Way Skate Park represents a successful collaboration between the City, Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville and Team Pain Skate Parks. It’s a throwback to the old park on Leeman Ferry Road, with features that will challenge professionals while still being suitable for skateboarding novices.

A rendering of the new Kids Space at John Hunt Park. There are kids playing on outdoor playground equipment and a sign that reads, "Entering 1800s"

The new Kids’ Space, set to open in summer 2023, will honor Huntsville’s past, present and future.

Within a stone’s throw of the skate park will be the new and improved Kids’ Space. Under construction now, the playground’s design pays tribute to Huntsville’s past, present and future. More importantly, its accessible design and materials mean all children can enjoy it regardless of ability.

On the east side of the park, a renovation is turning the former National Guard armory into the Raymond W. Jones Community Center. The center will support programming for senior populations, including those with Parkinson’s disease, while also providing office space for John Hunt Park staff.

Joe Davis Stadium

An even larger renovation project is racing toward its goal – the spring 2023 opening of Joe Davis Stadium and the arrival of professional soccer in the Rocket City. The stadium will serve as the home of the Huntsville City Football Club. This summer’s announcement energized an already enthusiastic soccer community.

An aerial view of the construction of Joe Davis Stadium in Huntsville. There is dirt and construction vehicles also visible.

The renovated Joe Davis Stadium will open in Spring 2023 (photo courtesy of Sellers Photo).

Joe Davis Stadium will meet the needs of citizens in other areas, as well. The 6,000-seat facility will accommodate multiple groups, including Huntsville City Schools football games on Friday nights. Its multiuse fields will also be available for ultimate frisbee, rugby and lacrosse, and other events like concerts and religious services.

Johnson Legacy Park

Work is ongoing at the site of Johnson Legacy Park, which will be a point of pride for all citizens. It will feature walking trails, a modern playground, two pavilions and one entertainment pavilion with terraced seating for small concerts or theatrical performances.

A rendering of the new Johnson Legacy Park, which shows people underneath a covered area. There are trees in the background.

Construction is ongoing on Johnson Legacy Park at the site of the former J.O. Johnson High School. It will be a beacon for North Huntsville, which is undergoing a renaissance in terms of new residential and commercial growth.

It will be a beacon for North Huntsville, which is undergoing a renaissance in terms of new residential and commercial growth. At the end of the day, that’s the goal of each of these projects. They represent not just facilities, but people; spaces to play, exercise, learn and socialize, improving the physical and emotional wellbeing of all.

More to come

Family-friendly offerings, from back-to-school bashes to citywide boot camps, touched the lives of more than 12,000 people in 2022. A Male Mentorship program also launched with great success, providing safe spaces for youth to realize their potential and have fun with adult role models. Similar programs are in the works for young ladies.

As 2022 draws to a close, there is much to appreciate and even more to look forward to in the coming year.

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