It is a whopping figure that literally jumped off the front page of this newspaper: $82 million. That’s how much a draft strategic recreation improvement plan would cost the city of Warner Robins — and is anyone really surprised? Maybe at the amount, but it’s impossible to be caught unaware of the recreational needs of what has been one of the fastest growing cities in Georgia. The city’s recreation center next to City Hall is 50 years old and does not stand up to the test of time. The recreation needs of 73,000 are a far cry from those of 1964, when a little less than 19,000 people called the area home.
Much more has changed in the past 50 years. Quality of life is defined differently and for families — particularly young ones — ball fields, gyms, swimming pools and tennis courts are not considered extravagances but essentials. Warner Robins is also home to many seniors — 9.3 percent of the population, according to the Census Bureau is older than 65. Their recreational needs are a bit different than the younger crowd, but they want to stay active and strong, too.
The creative class that all cities are trying to attract and retain is looking for more amenities. It is seeking out cities with vibrant downtowns, colleges and universities — and parks with walking paths and other attractions.
The draft plan spells out the recreational needs of the city. There will probably be little discussion about its findings aside from a tweak here and there. Where the debate will occur is how to pay for it all. Warner Robins like most places is tax averse. There are other ways to pay for the plan, but all cost money — money that has to be raised or paid back.
It’s up to the residents of Warner Robins to decide what kind of city they want: a low tax, low service city or something more robust.