Recreation centre, proposed museum where the former separate Bastrop school was located

A non-profit organization in Bastrop is working to transform a slice of the city’s history that once represented segregation into one that symbolizes unity.

The Emile Multicultural Center/Recreation Complex, a newly created non-profit organization, plans to build the city’s first recreation center. The organization was established in August 2021 with a mission to honor the area’s historic roots — specifically, the legacy of the former Lycée Emile, a segregated school for black students that closed in 1969.

The municipal council unanimously approved a letter of intent on Tuesday signifying its agreement to collaborate with Emile for the construction of the leisure center. The letter, noted City Manager Paul Hofmann, is not binding but acts as “a hugely important statement of the city’s intentions to bring this partnership to fruition.”

The organization hopes to build the center on the land where Emile High School once stood, approximately 20 acres of land owned by the Bastrop School District, bordered by Texas 95, Pine Street and Martin Luther King Drive.

The land is currently home to some of the district’s football pitches, but the city is offering to swap this land with the district for a 25-acre property along Lovers Lane, southwest of where they currently stand. the fields.

The district had not yet discussed the matter Tuesday night when the city council approved the letter of intent, but Charles Washington Jr., chairman of the board of the nonprofit Emile, is confident that the district will accept the proposal.

“We think it’s going to happen because everyone’s been very positive about it,” Washington told the Bastrop Advertiser. “…Honestly, I haven’t spoken to anyone in any walk of life who has had negative feelings about what we’re doing to build this resort. It’s positive on every level.”

The cost of the installation is estimated at around $15 million – although Washington has stressed that the cost could change as plans for the center take shape. The non-profit organization would fundraise and collect donations to pay for the construction of the facility, and once the building is completed, the city would then be responsible for its operation and maintenance.

Although details for the recreation center have not been finalized, Washington said the organization met with an architect to discuss draft plans for the facility. The building would take about four years to construct and would be approximately 42,000 square feet, with a 5,000 square foot multicultural museum.

The museum, Washington told the council, would not only respect Emile High School, but also honor all of the cultures that make up the history of the Bastrop community.

“I remember growing up when there were three schools here: there was a Mexican school, there was a black school and a white school,” Washington said. “Now that story should be captured somewhere and we think this is the way to do it.”

It is also proposed that the facility have a 27,000 square foot gymnasium that would be open to a variety of sports including volleyball, basketball and pickleball.

At the council meeting on Tuesday evening, several pickleball players from the community expressed their enthusiasm for the recreation center. Gary Moss, president of the city’s Pickleball Association, said he anticipated the courts the recreation center would provide to the organization.

The recreation center would also have meeting rooms and classrooms for public use and an outdoor soccer field.

“We think this will be a big thing that will bring people together and unite the city,” Washington told the council.

He added that the recreation center would provide an economic boost to the town by attracting people and businesses to the area.

“People want things to do when they arrive,” Washington said. “And big companies don’t like to bring their companies in if their employees have nothing to do when it comes to leisure. And so we think this site will provide that.

Emile High School opened in 1892. Washington said he proudly graduated from the school in 1963. At the heart of building the recreation center, he said, is the construction of a place where community members can enjoy each other’s presence and honor the history of the area.

“Hopefully we can show the 77 years of greatness and all the people who went through Emile and every class and how it happened,” he said.

Chris Kirby, a nonprofit representative for Emile, asked the council at Tuesday’s meeting to see the potential for the recreation center.

“It’s an opportunity for this town to show what it can mean to truly grow, rather than be damaged by, history that created a school specifically for a specific ethnic group,” Kirby said. “What this allows us is an opportunity for this city to become a beacon for all cultures to come together around this.

“This multicultural center is the center of the city, literally physically and metaphorically, in a way that can show what can really happen in the same way that Emile was an incredible cornerstone for the African American community in Central Texas. .”

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