If you’re planning to tour the new City of Farmington Hills community center, lace up your best walking shoes.
The Hawk, a 245,000-square-foot facility, occupies two floors of the former Harrison High School, purchased from Farmington Public Schools in 2018. The city’s Economic Development Commission has undertaken a study to determine whether the third floor might house a business incubator.
Special Services Director Ellen Schnackel said crews have flipped the primary entry to the east side, creating a spacious lobby. Natural light streams in from floor to ceiling windows.
“It was very important for us to establish a new entrance to the building,” Schnackel said. “We wanted something open seven days a week, all year around.”
Athletics, aquatics, performance
At the entrance, visitors will find a service desk and concession stand serving healthy (and not so healthy) snacks. As you face west, three areas branch off from south to north: athletics and fitness, the aquatics center, and performing arts.
The basketball court will look familiar to Harrison Hawk fans; it’s simply refurbished. Schnackel said the gym provides three times the space available at Costick Activities Center. When programs move into The Hawk, the city’s Senior Division will expand there.
The hall leading into the state-of-the-art fitness center houses a Harrison High legacy wall, with a unique sculpture that depicts a hawk in flight and digitized memorabilia accessed through a touchscreen display. Schnackel said the Harrison Legacy Committee has compiled “tons and tons” of data, trophies, even yearbooks for the display.
“We’re honoring the awesome traditions and legacy of Harrison High School,” she said.
Fitness buffs will find free weights, TRX training, and cardio equipment like stair-steppers, rowing machines, and treadmills. Schnackel said the center has space for small fitness classes and a direct connection to the aquatic center.
Rows of lockers will remain; family restrooms provide space for parents to shower and change with their children.
Starting May 1, Farmington area residents can purchase a Hawk Pass that allows access to the fitness and aquatic centers. Prices range from $5 for a daily youth pass to $478 for an annual family (maximum two adults and five children) pass. Adults 50 and older have discounted options.
The Harrison swimming pool seems hardly recognizable after its transformation into a massive aquatic center. Features include a water slide, sprayers, a lap pool, accessibility lifts, and space for water volleyball or basketball. Adventurous guests can scale a climbing wall and drop from the top into the pool.
“The Costick (Center) pool is great for teaching and exercise, but we’ve been hearing from residents for years that they want an aquatic center like Livonia or Canton,” Schnackel said.
A hall of public art will separate The Hawk’s main entrance from the performing arts wing. A sculpture made from repurposed scrap will mark a separate outdoor theater entrance.
Schnackel said the school theater’s numbered seats, which are in good shape, will help with event ticketing. New carpet, lighting, a sound system, and new curtains spruce up the space.
A black box theater may serve a couple of purposes, Schnackel said, from smaller performances to pre-event gatherings. Also in that area, former music rooms will become spaces for private music lessons now offered at the Longacre House.
Harrison’s dance studio will allow Special Services to offer classes for a range of students from beginners to advanced. Schnackel said the mirrored space required no additional work to get it ready for classes.
“We’re excited to be able to grow the program,” she added.
The city’s video division will move into The Hawk, with production facilities and one room painted floor to ceiling for “green screen” videos.
“They’re so important to us,” Schnackel said. “The things they’re pumping out on social media promote the great stuff we’re doing with the city.”
Schnackel said future projects will include a recording studio and a “maker space” with specialized equipment for public use.
While there’s been talk on social media about prices, Schnackel said those are still under discussion–considering a new facility with lots of overhead. However, she said, recreation revenue generators like the golf course allow for free and reduced price offerings.
There’s also help for families that can’t afford classes.
“We have had a scholarship program supported by the city council for as long as I’ve been here,” Schnackel said. “Any youth under age 18 can apply, and we work closely with Farmington Public Schools to get that information out to families. We try to work with everybody.”
COVID-19 derailed a planned fall 2020 completion; The Hawk’s doors will probably open in June. To learn more, visit fhgov.com/Activities/The-Hawk/Home.aspx, or follow along on Facebook, the city’s YouTube channel, or @farmingtonhills_ss on Instagram.