Detroit City Councilman Fred Durhal Detroit City Councilman Fred Durhal
Detroit City Councilman Fred Durhal III speaks Thursday, March 17, 2022, at a news conference about the city's $45 million investment in nearly a dozen recreation centers. Durhal joined residents and other city officials for the announcement outside the shuttered Dexter-Elmhurst Community Center.

Detroit officials on Thursday detailed plans to invest $45 million into renovating and reopening recreation centers across the city. 

The projects, funded in large part with $30 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars, include the $8.5 million renovation of the Dexter-Elmhurst Recreation Center in the city’s Russell Woods neighborhood. The city expects construction to start in spring 2023. 

The Dexter-Elmhurst center has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, but residents had been fighting to get it renovated for over a decade before then. 

Related: Detroit rec centers are open again, as residents rejoice

Rhonda Smith, with the Russell Woods-Sullivan Area Association, said it’s important for Detroiters to have places where they can have fun and be safe in their communities. 

Inside the closer Dexter-Elmhurst Recreation Center on March 17, 2022.

“We all need a place where we can have structured fun, especially the children,” Smith said. “If they don’t have it here, they will find something to do whether it’s being out on the street or getting into trouble, they’ll find something to do.” 

Renovated rec centers:

Adams-Butzel – Roof replacement, HVAC upgrades, pool, and locker room improvements

Heilmann – Interior renovations, updates, and improvements to lobby, restrooms, and kitchen

Patton – Pool and gymnasium improvements, HVAC upgrades and renovated dance room

Farwell – New gym, lockers and walking path

Centers slated for upgrades or under construction:

Dexter-Elmhurst – Full building renovation

Chandler Park – New indoor center and dome-covered football field

Coleman Young – Interior renovations, updates, and improvements to lobby, entry way, restrooms, and kitchen

State Fair Bandshell – Amphitheater relocated to Palmer Park

Butzel Family – Interior and exterior updates and renovations

Crowell – Renovations and updates to lobby, restrooms, kitchen, landscaping

Clemente – Renovations and updates to lobby, restrooms, kitchen, landscaping

Lenox – Complete facility rebuild

Education activist and Russell Woods resident Helen Moore said during Thursday’s announcement that her community needs its recreation center open and available. 

“This certainly is the place that people come not only when they’re in trouble with the law, but they come here when they are in need of food, they come here when they’re in need of recreation, and of course they come here when they need the spirit of God,” Moore said. 

The city will use another $12 million in ARPA funds to install an indoor center and dome-covered football field at Chandler Park, $4 million to build a gym and walking path at the Farwell Recreation Center, and $3 million to move the historic bandshell from the former Michigan State Fairgrounds to an amphitheater in Palmer Park. 

Mayor Mike Duggan said during his State of the City address this month that Detroit has closed more than 20 recreation centers since the 1980s. He and other elected leaders, including at-large Councilwoman Mary Waters, are working to “reverse the trend.” 

“This is something that always bothered me when the budget got tight, it seems like the kids got cut first,” Duggan said. 

In a statement Thursday, Duggan said the city is shifting its attention to aging recreation centers to ensure they are of the same quality available in suburban communities. 

The city had earmarked $10 million in bond funding to improve other recreation centers as well. 

Some of those, like renovations at the Adams-Butzel center, were completed in 2021. The Coleman Young Recrecreation Center, on the other hand, is getting $1.5 million in upgrades and remains under construction. Those improvements are expected to be finished this summer. 

The remaining bond dollars have been spent on improvements to the city’s Butzel Family, Clemente, Crowell, Patton, and Heilmann recreation centers. Billionaire Roger Penske donated $5 million to completely rebuild the Lenox Rec Center in the Jefferson-Chalmers Neighborhood. 

Bryce Huffman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. He was formerly a reporter for Michigan Radio, and host of the podcast, Same Same Different.

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