, Muskogee, OK

Local News

July 13, 2014

MLK Center groundbreaking set Jan. 15

Date is birthday of rights leader

Backers of a new Martin Luther King Community Center plan to turn dirt on the project Jan. 15, the birthdate of its namesake.

With all the funding in place, city councilors authorized the city manager to negotiate a contract with a Bartlesville-based firm for architectural services. Ambler Architects was hired during the project development stage to produce a conceptual design.

“Ambler is the architect we have used from Day 1, and theoretically it would be a bad idea to change at this point,” said Ward IV Councilor Marlon Coleman, who has served on a task force dubbed “the Dream Team” in support of the project. “They ... put together these focus groups ... to develop a concept that focused not on bricks and mortar but on what people would like to see as far as services that might be offered.”

The concept for the project sprang from input gathered during six visioning sessions.

The conceptual design brings to life the idea of community, which task force members have described as a consistent message heard during each of those meetings.

“This project ... will give us some good synergy we can build upon to work toward the common goal ... of bringing people together,” Coleman said, referencing the civil rights leader’s ability to build bridges and unify ideals. “I want to be certain that we can do everything we can as a bureaucracy to aid in the process and not slow it down.”

The need for a new King Center was identified by organizers and participants of the Action in Muskogee initiative as a priority project and the north anchor of downtown revitalization plans.

Foundation directors have designated $2.75 million for the project, and voters approved a five-year sales tax extension that includes an additional $1.5 million for the community center.

Ward III Councilor Derrick Reed said a $200,000 pledge from the Ruby Family Charitable Trust and private donations completed the funding component.

Reed said efforts are under way to secure additional parcels of land that would provide frontage for the center along Martin Luther King Street.

The new center would expand the services it now provides — after-school and youth feeding programs and a meeting place for numerous organizations — and its representation of “the rich and proud historical culture of the community of Muskogee.” Reed, who oversees various programs now available at the King Center, said those services will continue during what is expected to be an 18-month construction project.

“We have already been funded for next year,” Reed said about the center’s after-school, summer feeding and Night Hoops programs.

“When we find out what pieces of land we have to work with, we will know if those programs will be where they are now or if we will have to find a temporary location somewhere else.”

D.J. Thompson, chief operations officer and manager of the foundation, reported during a presentation in December the after-school program has demonstrated tremendous success.

The Night Hoops program, she said, served 1,332 unduplicated youth who were provided “meals, activities and exercise in a safe environment on Friday nights.”

Coleman, Reed, Thompson and other supporters have said those programs would be expanded and others added once the new facility is completed.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or

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