It takes very little time to notice that the face of Eastgate Park has changed completely once you begin traveling up its driveway.
A large home built in the 1970s no longer tops the prominent hill. Instead “The Lodge,” a rustic resort-style building, hovers above the lake – providing a view that may be unrivaled in Houston County.
While the new building’s beautiful design amidst pastoral scenery immediately captures visitors’ attentions, Dothan Leisure Services assistant director Kim Meeker emphasizes the facility’s versatility as its key element. Inside are party and conference rooms that meet any group’s needs, and the building will serve as the base for several activities like archery events, cross-country races and the park’s newest addition – pickleball courts.
“Right now we’ve got camps that are coming regularly,” Meeker said. “We had a special needs came here (Friday), and we’ve had the Adventure camp. We don’t consider this to be a rec center. This is the Eastgate Lodge. This is meant to have its own character.”
The Dothan City Commission approved the creation of The Lodge in February 2018 at a price tag of about $1.3 million. Meeker said the original Eastgate facility, originally a house on the property when the city purchased it, needed heavy renovations or replacement after years of serving as an attractive event space.
“We were the leading rental place of all of our rec centers in a house that was so poorly adjusted to the things we were trying to do,” Meeker said. “The wear and tear was just extreme. It was well-documented we needed something.”
Officials decided a replacement provided the better usage of the money and designed a facility that acted more like an event hall than someone’s former house. Though the original house topped 7,000 square feet, the upstairs area was virtually unusable, said Dennis Cosby, Eastgate Park manager.
Meeker also noted the largest room the original building offered contained space for maybe 50 people. That has certainly changed with the creation of The Lodge.
The largest event room offers space for about 150, and the room can be easily divided into two separate rooms. The rooms can be set up into roundtables for businesses or into a party format that accommodates many.
Both sides of the room have access to a commercial kitchen with plenty of ice machines, Meeker noted. TVs dot each side of the room for presentations and could eventually have cable connections.
The room, which overlooks the lake, also opens out to a large porch area that comes equipped with rocking chairs.
“I foresee a whole lot of groups will just kick back and relax here,” Meeker said.
A conference room inhabits space on the side of the building, providing even more meeting space.
The building also houses two offices for park staffers and will serve as the base of the park’s operations. Archers will check in at the facility before using the range, and Meeker noted canoe rentals may be offered in the future. Of course disc golfers can return or retrieve lost discs at The Lodge offices.
“It’s just the ideal situation for outdoor activities, camp-type activities,” Meeker said.
That – along with The Lodge’s design and setting – fits perfectly with the main reason patrons love the park, Cosby said.
“It’s much more passive than other parks throughout the city, and people tend to enjoy that,” he said. “I hear people constantly say, ‘I just love it out here. It’s so open.’”
The Lodge opens with a ribbon cutting on July 11.