By Ally Morrison
Vestavia Hills residents are seeing an expansion in recreation options as the city moves toward completion of plans that have been in the works for several years.
At the top of that list is a new 100,000-square-foot civic center, said City Manager Jeff Downes.
The civic center is expected to open this spring and include multi-purpose recreation courts; an indoor walking track; meeting, event and office spaces; a 10,000-square-foot banquet space with warming kitchen; and the Vestavia Hills Sports Hall of Fame.
“There has been a rather lengthy planning process to improve our recreational assets in Vestavia Hills,” Downes said. “That plan has now broadened to include infrastructure improvements as well. This planning effort has set aside nearly $68 million to fund varying asset improvements across the city.”
Downes explained that a number of the projects included in those plans have been completed in the past 12 months, and some are still in the works.
Cahaba Heights park has been newly renovated and serves as an athletic complex that features multiple baseball fields and an inclusive playground. Included are a dog park and an updated New Merkel House, which opened in spring, according to the Vestavia Hills’ Parks and Recreation website.
The city also completed construction of an aquatic center at Wald Park, featuring a competition pool as well as a family-use pool.
The city made great progress in road and drainage improvement projects, Downes said. Most notably those include road-widening, sidewalk and drainage improvements on Crosshaven Drive.
That project is more than halfway completed, he said.
“A lot of these efforts have been envisioned for many years, and to reach conclusion on some of those has been really gratifying,” Downes said.
In addition to completion of the civic center and Crosshaven Drive, Downes said, “We want to complete what we’re calling Phase III improvements to Wald Park, which will include tennis courts, trails and improved parking.”
Downes said the city is reorganizing and restructuring its parks and recreation system “so that the human resources can be coupled with the physical resources, as well as new buildings and assets.”
“I think it’s important to do this in order to step up our game in our parks and recreation department,” he said. “When you have brick and mortar, that’s great. But, you also have to have new and enhanced programming. We are looking forward to those efforts.”
Downes said another focus in 2022 is for the city to provide its residents with services at the highest level, such as continuing to provide stellar services in the police and fire departments and have high-quality employees.
During the nine years he has served as city manager, Downes explained, none of the accomplishments would have been possible without economic sustainability.
“My proudest achievement, from my perspective, has been the ability to grow our revenue sources by enhancing building and economic opportunities in the city,” he said.
“What has resulted has been a healthy growth in our revenues, which help us to do many of the things we have accomplished and plan to do in the future.”