Hilton Head Island's recreation center encourages healthy competition, but a planned construction project might soon make its parking situation a little less cutthroat.
The Island Recreation Center will double its number of parking spaces this summer with a new lot across the street on Wilborn Road. It is expected to alleviate traffic and parking problems near the center, according to Nicole Dixon, senior planner for the Town of Hilton Head Island.
Traffic on Wilborn and School roads slows when children are dropped off or picked up for after-school programs, often blocking fire lanes or forcing drivers to park in the street, medians and grass near the center.
"It's just very disorganized," Dixon said.
The new parking lot will make getting to and from the center safer, said the center's executive director, Frank Soule.
The center has 57 parking spaces between its main lot in front of the building and the neighboring Hilton Head Island High School softball and baseball fields. The new lot will add 60 spaces.
The project will cost the town about $200,000, including surveying, design, permitting and construction. It will be completed this summer while the nearby schools are out.
The lot, which will be on school land, will also provide more convenient parking for nearby lacrosse and softball fields.
A lease between the town and the Beaufort County School District was approved unanimously last week by Town Council.
The project is the first of a three-phase expansion of the center approved by council in 2011.
However, Dixon said no timetable has been set for the rest of the expansion, expected to include a new 16,440-square-foot gym with a second-story walking track, renovated locker rooms, relocated basketball and tennis courts, and new swimming pools.
Those projects are expected to be planned as the town can afford them.
Town Council tabled plans in December for a $7.6 million aquatics center so it could fund other capital projects, such as the Chaplin linear park and redevelopment of The Mall at Shelter Cove.
Rec center officials hope council will soon revisit the pool plans.
"I am pleased that the parking lot project can move forward to accommodate the booming population that the rec center serves each day," said Heather Rath, vice chairwoman of the town's Parks and Recreation Commission, in an email to The Island Packet. "However I feel the real focus of Town Council and its future monies should be on the redevelopment of a first class recreation and aquatics facility that serves so many citizens and island visitors."