River Oaks resident Lewis Armenteros wants people to know that Memorial Park is the best deal for people looking to stay fit.
“It’s the cheapest gym there is,” he said Friday after the public grand opening of the $2.4 million Memorial Park Running Trails Center. “The development, from the land bridge to the completion of this center, will eventually lead to the repaving of the trails. It’s going to draw more people to this side of the park. I train people and this is a great meeting place. I also like that this is specifically aimed at runners.”
A crowd of elected officials, city of Houston employees and many of the runners who call the park home turned out for the unveiling of the 4,400 square-foot facility, which includes new lockers and showers for runners, bicyclists and other park visitors; restrooms; towel rentals; vending machines and a multi-purpose room; and additional parking and office space for the Memorial Park Conservancy and the Houston Police Department.
The center completes the $10 million Capital Campaign launched in 2008.
The Memorial Park Capital Campaign, chaired by Mindy Hildebrand, provided the private fundraising needed to build the Memorial Park Running Trail Center, the Memorial Park Living Bridge, the Alkek Tennis Center Plaza and the Outer Loop Trail.
Hildebrand thanked all involved for helping bring the project to fruition.
“With the completion of the Running Trails Center, Memorial Park Conservancy has met the goals set out for the campaign,” Hildebrand said. “Houston Parks and Recreation Department and Memorial Park Conservancy joined together in a public-private partnership to provide a beautiful and safe connection between the north and south sides of the park. The Conservancy has enhanced and extended an existing trail for cyclists, runners and walkers. The Conservancy also redeveloped the Alkek Tennis Center Plaza, and finally, built the Running Trails Center to draw runners to the south side of the park in order to alleviate congestion on the north side and to provide a venue for special events. I am sincerely thankful to all of the consultants, Joe Turner and HPARD, the board members of the Conservancy, the Memorial Park Conservancy staff, and most importantly, the more than 700 donors that made these projects happen.”
Turner, director of Houston Parks and Recreation Department, thanked former Mayor Bill White, who hired him, as well as Hildebrand and all the members of his staff.
“It takes a group effort to get a park done, and I thank all the members of my team,” Turner said.
White, who was mayor when the campaign began, said it was a special day.
“It’s not the vision of the public servants that’s important – it’s the vision of the public,” White said. “Parks are built for the people while preserving the characteristics that attract people to parks. This takes Memorial Park to the next level.”
Attending the event were Houston City Council members Ellen Cohen, Oliver Pennington, Stephen Costello, Jerry Davis and Ed Gonzalez, City Councilman Robert Gallegos’ chief of staff Leah Olive-Nishioka, Johnna Carlson, director of outreach for U.S. Congressman Ted Poe, and state Sen. John Whitmire.