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By Charlotte Smith

The Town of Elizabethtown held a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday to celebrate the new Martin Luther King Community Center construction at 409 Martin Luther King Drive. Dignitaries and stakeholders gathered together and agreed the facility would greatly benefit the community.

Town of Elizabethtown Mayor Sylvia Campbell welcomed all who attended and spoke about the project’s development. The facility plans to have an 11,000-square-foot indoor event center. The project will consist of an area for a full-court basketball court with bleachers and spaces for a full commercial kitchen, restrooms, and a conference or dining area.

According to Town officials, out of 40 applicants, Elizabethtown and Charlotte were the only two North Carolina locations selected for the resources to service areas disadvantaged by infrastructure projects.

“This facility is the anchor of the revitalization in this area, Dane Rideout, Town of Elizabethtown Manager, stated. He admitted it was uncomfortable for the “government” to purchase African-American and “black-owned property,” but the outcome will benefit the area. Rideout added, “We are going to build a brick and mortar, 2.5 million dollar state-of-the-art facility.”

North Carolina Assistant Secretary Kenny Flowers was the guest speaker for the special occasion. He exclaimed his excitement for the new facility and noted North Carolina is the best State to do business in the country, according to a recent publication.

Flowers said, “This does not happen unless you work together and have partnerships.” In closing, Flowers added the State would continue to work with the local area to improve economic growth.

Before the groundbreaking event, Libby Smith, a state official, was presented with flowers from the Town for all her assistance with the project. Town Maintenance Director Rusty Worley was also spotlighted for all his work on the project.

The Martin Luther King Community Center Board of Directors are Ms. Linda Gillespie, Mr. Mark Gillespie, Mr. Rich Glenn, Mr. Herman Lewis, Lt. Colonel Carl Lloyd, Mr. Rufus Lloyd, Mr. Lorenzo McDowell, Mr. Tommy McKoy, Ms. Minnie Price, and Mrs. Heather Tart. Ex Officio Members are Mayor Campbell, Mr. Rideout, Mrs. Sharon Penny, and Mr. Stephen McDuffy.

According to a press release, in conjunction with engineering consultant Paul Mattox, Libby Smith, and E.L. Robinson Engineering, Elizabethtown was awarded $2.575 million to design and construct the Center through the Community Building Block Grant – Neighborhood Revitalization. A second grant will be used to improve sidewalks and add decorative lighting to make the area safer and pedestrian friendly.

According to the official announcement, the “Martin Luther King Community Center is coming in Spring 2024.” The Elizabethtown project is funded by the North Carolina Department of Commerce Community Block Grant.

Other notes:

• Town of Elizabethtown Mayor Pro Tem Rufus Lloyd gave the invocation over the ceremony.

• Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy presented the colors during the service.

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