Community engagement led the transformation of the dated Broughton Recreation Center into a colorful, daylit, youth-oriented community hub.
For a generation of kids growing up in Longview, Texas, the Broughton Recreation Center was a beloved part of their youth, the spot for pick-up basketball games and afternoons in the library. Built in 1978, the complex and surrounding fields served as the center of life for the predominantly African American neighborhood, which was traditionally underserved and underrepresented.
When the city proposed to renovate the aging, windowless facility and the 19-acre site, it stirred many emotions in people living around the center.
“The project was an opportunity to transform how the community viewed the building and how they used the space, recognizing its role in their lives,” says LPA Project Manager Brien Graham.
A master plan had been developed for the site, but LPA designers discovered that the surveys sent out during the process didn’t include anyone within a two-mile radius of the center. Many people in the neighborhood were wary and resentful of the process — or simply uninterested and skeptical that their viewpoints would be heard.
Working with community leaders, LPA designers pushed hard to find different ways to include more voices and ensure they were heard. Design teams hosted community workshops, “listening sessions” with boards displaying different design styles for the interior and exterior of the building and the site. Members of the neighborhood were given access to every step of the process. The design team utilized community feedback to assist the city in creating a prioritization list to implement as many of the desired amenities as possible, while maintaining a strict budget.
“Our goal was to translate these requests to the team to ensure the community would see their input reflected in the final design decisions,” Graham says.
A branch library was relocated and made more accessible and open to the community.
The community raised several key issues during the research process. They wanted more amenities suited to today’s youth. They wanted more recreational spaces, more outdoor seating and better integration between the building, park and existing walking trail. Beyond recreation and the library, the center played a key role in the community’s health and growth, the designers found. Broughton was one of few places in the area for kids to safely congregate after school.
As the design took shape, LPA’s architects, interior designers and landscape architects worked closely to ensure that the community’s goals were seamlessly integrated with the design. LPA’s in-house team of designers and landscape architects were involved from the early stages, including coordinating with engineering partners on mechanical systems, ductwork and lighting.
“LPA brought together a bunch of disciplines, from landscape to library to architecture, with a wealth of experience,” says former City of Longview Parks and Recreation Director Scott Caron. “The communication and quick responses enabled a smooth, streamlined process.”
LPA brought together a bunch of disciplines, from landscape to library to architecture, with a wealth of experience. The communication and quick responses enabled a smooth, streamlined process.
A new esports room was designed to respond to the community’s desire to make the center more youth-focused.
Meeting the Community’s Needs The renovation saves the bones and spirit of the center, while creating an open, welcoming environment for the community. The original concrete masonry structure with only two sidelights was enhanced with a glass façade and multi-shade green metal panels inspired by the park setting. New window openings were cut into the existing building’s west side to bring daylighting into the meeting rooms and connect to nature. Additionally, glazing was incorporated around the building and into the new gymnasium.
The branch library was relocated from the back of the building to a storefront window next to the entry, providing transparency and easy access to this community amenity.
Access to the center was designed from the street to the park. The walking trail and basketball courts were resurfaced, and seating areas were added.
Most people can’t believe we were able to transform Broughton Recreation Center into what it is. They are stunned, and feel we spared no expense to provide amenities they didn’t have before.
Members of the community shared how playing basketball in the gym helped shape their lives.
In the entry area, ceilings were raised to 20 feet, creating a fresh, new lobby, with views into the library. The gymnasium facilities were fully upgraded, with fitness equipment and an open gaming area with pingpong, air hockey and foosball tables. Responding to the community’s request to make the center more of a youth-focused hub, a new Esports room was designed with gaming consoles, couches and large-screen TVs.
In creating the color theme for the interiors, the team drew from the City of Longview’s green-and-blue logo and the greens and grays from the park. In addition, the green metal screens on the façade were designed to mimic the effect of looking through the trees. While it wasn’t possible to bring natural light into the older gym, an abstract tree graphic was added to the walls to extend the connection-to-nature theme.
The renovated center is designed to serve as a community hub and meeting spot for future generations.
“The building begins with a green color palette in the lobby, fitness area and main gym. Then as you walk through the open gaming area, meeting room and older gym, there are splashes of blue,” adds LPA Interior Designer Paula Defarro.
Outdoor spaces were efficiently upgraded, with the addition of a promenade, landscaping and the extension of the walking trails. The elements link together to create a new facility that meets the community’s needs in many ways.
Ceilings were raised in the new lobby, which features a variety of spaces and windows with views into the gymnasium and library.
At the reopened facility’s recent dedication on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Longview native and Councilman Wray Wade recalled the center’s original opening in 1978 and the days he spent at the park as a kid.
“I have many fond memories here, went on to play college basketball, get a college education, and it all started right here in this gym,” he told the audience. “I can’t wait for the community to see and experience everything that this [renovated] facility has to offer.”
The opening was a community event, celebrating the connection between the center and the young people influenced by its role in their lives. Local leaders wanted a design process that would challenge their ideas and bring excitement to the site, Caron told the audience. “We were fortunate to work with LPA Design Studios to guide us in the process,” he said. “And we are very thankful for their efforts in working with the community to be able to hear their comments and provide a response in this facility.”
An open gaming area includes pingpong, air hockey and foosball tables.
In the weeks following the opening, area residents embraced their new center. Feedback was positive, and children were exploring and learning about their new home-away-from-home.
“Most people can’t believe we were able to transform Broughton Recreation Center into what it is,” Caron says. “They are stunned, and feel we spared no expense to provide amenities they didn’t have before.”