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Historic Gym Gets New Life As Community Recreation Center

Charlotte’s first black high school was closed in 1969 as part of urban renewal. All that remains of the school is the gym, which is undergoing a $2.5M renovation.
Charlotte’s first black high school was closed in 1969 as part of urban renewal. All that remains of the school is the gym, which is undergoing a $2.5M renovation.

Renovations are nearing completion for a community recreation center and a new museum in Uptown’s former Second Ward High School gym.

Charlotte’s first black high school was closed in 1969 as part of urban renewal that demolished Second Ward’s Brooklyn neighborhood. All that remains of the school is the gymnasium, which was designated as a Historic Landmark in 2008.

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department planner James Williams, left, tours the former Second Ward High School gym with former Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board chair Arthur Griffin.
Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department planner James Williams, left, tours the former Second Ward High School gym with former Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board chair Arthur Griffin.

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department is facilitating a $2.5M renovation of the building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. In addition to the recreation center, it will serve as a museum and office for the Second Ward High School Alumni Association. 

Memorabilia kept intact by the alumni association will be on display in the original entrance to the gym, where tickets were once sold.

The county has partnered with the Arts and Science Council as part of Mecklenburg County’s 1% for the Arts Ordinance. The ordinance appropriates 1% of capital improvement project funds for public art. Murals by local painter Tommie Robinson inside the gym will give a visual history of the school.

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department is facilitating a $2.5M renovation of the building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Parks and Recreation Department planner James Williams

“Once you come in here, you will be reminded of the significance of this area,” Parks and Recreation Department planner James Williams said. “It was one of those projects you knew needed to be done, and there was a sense of urgency to get it done quickly because of the age of some of the stakeholders. You want them to be able to see it.”

The alumni association hosts a reunion every year, and the school’s final graduating class will hold its 50th in 2019.

Historic Gym Gets New Life As Community Recreation Center
Rendering of renovated Second Ward High School gym

The recreation space will be used for basketball games, fitness classes, camps and other programs associated with the adjoining Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center. The basketball court has new rims, backboards, a scoreboard, floor and ceiling. Volleyball courts and spin bikes will be added. The original bleachers were left intact.

The facility will feature new restrooms, windows and roof. An accessible walkway has been created between the gym and the Aquatic Center. The main entrance and parking for both will be at the Aquatic Center, with the exception of an accessible drop-off ramp and parking at the gym’s original entrance.

Second Ward High School was built in 1923 and was closed in 1969 as part of urban renewal. All that remains of the school today is the gym.
Second Ward High School was built in 1923 and was closed in 1969 as part of urban renewal. All that remains of the school today is the gym.

The school was designed by modernist architect A.G. Odell Jr. and built in 1923. The gym was completed in 1949. In 2015, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board gifted the gym to the county.

The area surrounding the Second Ward High School gym and Aquatics Center will be developed into a mixed-use project called Brooklyn Village by BK Partners.

Neighboring Concepts is the architect for the renovation. Progressive Contracting Co. is the general contractor. Renovations will be complete in the spring.