The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center is on track to open in January, almost two years after its groundbreaking.
Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC is scheduled to complete the construction of the 104,000-square-foot learning, recreation and worship center on 15 acres adjacent to the Mid-South Fairgrounds by the end of December.
After that comes the moving in of office furniture and equipment, followed by the opening of the facility to charter members, said Stephen Carpenter, director of operations for the Kroc Center. Feb. 23-24 will be the open house and dedication.
“It’s been an exciting process, we’re excited about getting to this point,” Carpenter said. “We had construction delays with design of the building that had to be reviewed, and so that put us back a little bit. But the nice thing about it is it just gave us more time to plan our programs.”
Monthly membership to the Kroc Center is $30 for individuals and $50 for a household of four. All monthly members get access to the aquatic center, open gym, locker room and fitness center.
“A number of other places will go with a higher price and have a sliding scale that comes down,” Carpenter said. “But what we decided to do was to provide the least cost that we could so that it’s affordable really for everybody.”
Amenities of the center, designed by brg3s architects and Fleming Associates Architects PC, include two outdoor soccer fields, NBA-quality basketball courts, a 350-seat performing arts theater for local schools and theater companies, lobby and art gallery, banquet hall with full commercial kitchen, teaching kitchen and courtyard.
In the indoor pool, there’s a lazy river with “death charges” of carbon dioxide bubbles that can be activated from the side of the pool. Carpenter said toys will be available in the pool area for kids to “squirt at a target and try and dump buckets over other participant’s heads.”
An outdoor splash park with two courses will be used for both fun and competition, equipped with a scoreboard and water features for teams to race through. As for the three-story challenge area – a nontraditional recreation and programming space – Carpenter calls it “indescribable.”
“There are three floors of performing arts stages that look out over the gym as well as into the challenge area that groups can play one song or multiple songs on for events that we’ll be having on the weekends,” he said. “Also in that area, there are themed rooms like Disney World areas where you actually walk into a room and you’re in an underground mine or in a catastrophe room, various things like that where we’ll have missions and challenges that people have to participate in.”
The Kroc Center, which is almost all single story, is working to achieve silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification – the highest level possible since it’s a new construction project. Two driving features of that designation are recycling concrete from two public pools that once operated on the site for the Kroc’s new pool, as well as a roof that will capture rain runoff water into large underground cisterns for soccer field and outside planting irrigation.
The Salvation Army raised $25 million locally for the project in order to receive a $50 million match from the estate of Joan Kroc, the late widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. Prior to her death, Joan Kroc asked that the gift be used exclusively to build and partially endow what would become 30 state-of-the-art Ray & Joan Kroc Corps. Community Centers across the U.S., of which Memphis was selected as one in 2005.
“One of the visions that Joan Kroc had was to bring people together from different areas and backgrounds – economic, racial, educational,” Carpenter said. “One of the beautiful things about this location is that the Fairgrounds for so long has been 100-plus acres that seems to, not purposely so, but it divides a lot of the neighborhoods. Our mission really is to build relationships and bring people together and this is kind of the perfect spot for it.”
Leading up to opening, the Kroc Center is hiring staff and plans to grow its current roster of 25 to 50 full-time employees. Several part-time positions are also available.
Carpenter and his staff are also in a big marketing push, from monthly hard-hat tours to reaching out into the community at events like last weekend’s MEMFix at Crosstown. The goal is to tell the story of the Kroc Center’s programs, as well as gain new memberships.
“We’re doing this now, but also when we’re up and running, we want to be a resource of information,” Carpenter said. “It’s just going to be a great asset for the city.”