Transformed school wins state award

Published 10:16 pm Thursday, September 23, 2010

Renovated building: The East Suffolk Recreation Center received a renovated building design award from a state parks and recreation organization.

Nearly two years after a grand opening celebration that brought hundreds of people back to the building to reminisce and to marvel at its changes, the East Suffolk Recreation Center has won a design award.

During its annual conference in Hampton, the Virginia Recreation and Parks Society awarded the Suffolk Department of Parks and Recreation the Best Statewide Renovation of an Existing Facility Award for cities with a population between 50,000 and 100,000.

According to an announcement by the city about the award, the project was judged on the innovative nature of design and construction; on its effectiveness in meeting the demands of the community; on its efficiency in using resources; on its effectiveness of meeting such design considerations as ADA accessibility and environmental sensitivity; on its effectiveness in meeting the needs of the community; and on general excellence.


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The renovated facility opened to great fanfare in January 2009 after having been closed for decades. It was built in 1939 to serve as a high school for black students in Suffolk. The last class graduated from the facility more than 30 years ago, and the building had sat empty throughout that period.

“What was once a dream today becomes a reality,” Lakita Frazier, Suffolk’s director of parks and recreation, said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center in early 2009. “This building has meant so much to so many people.”

The new facility includes a fitness center with elliptical machines, treadmills, weight machines, free weights and more; an 8,500 square-foot gym for basketball and volleyball; a game room with pool tables and other games for children and teens; a computer room and wireless Internet access throughout the building; a fully operable and state-of-the-art kitchen; and areas for classes for everyone from preschoolers on up to senior citizens.

One portion of the building — the former principal’s office — was set aside by the design team as a mini-museum featuring photos and memorabilia from the center’s former life as a school.

“For us, this is a memory,” East Suffolk High School Alumni Association representative Marion B. Wright said during a ceremony prior to the ribbon-cutting. “It’s a legacy.”

The Virginia Recreation and Park Society is a private, non-profit professional organization, founded in 1953 and incorporated in 1956. Its purpose is to unite all professionals, students and interested laypersons engaged in the field of recreation, parks and other leisure services in the commonwealth of Virginia into one body.