Nighttime Front Image of Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation and Aquatic Center

Creating a Welcoming Recreation Hub for the Entire Community

Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation and Aquatic Center
City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation
Atlanta, GA

The City of Atlanta wanted to develop a public recreation center that would serve as a cornerstone for the local community, promoting involvement in exercise and educational endeavors. Named in honor of Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the center’s design and geographical placement in the heart of the city seeks to reinforce the icon’s visionary leadership of unity and inclusion.

The design-build team delivered with a $23.5 million, 64,000 SF facility accessible to all called the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation and Aquatic Center. The design’s centerpiece is a glass-enclosed natatorium that folds open onto an outdoor plaza for community activities. It contains Atlanta’s first zero-depth entry indoor pool, with a family leisure zone and separate 25-yard lap space. Other amenities include a fitness center, climbing wall, multi-purpose gymnasium with elevated track, event space, community and class rooms, a senior center, computer lab, outdoor roof terrace and staff offices. Individual program elements are efficiently organized around a tall, central lobby on three floor levels. An all-encompassing roof echoes the idea of public involvement and inclusivity by uniting all of the various programs housed in the center. The roof is articulated to allow natural light into the spaces below and lifts at one corner to shelter an entrance plaza, acting as a beacon to the entry.

This project showcases KAI’s ability to work with an aggressive timeline (a set schedule of 13 months) while beautifully maintaining the integrity of the project’s design. Our integrated team utilized cloud-hosted design models that were kept up-to-date in real time to facilitate critical decisions. The new Center is a LEED Gold Certified project, designed to foster longevity and energy efficiency. Throughout the recreation center, there are a number of inspirational quotes and never-before-seen pictures of Dr. King and his family that were provided by the King family.


Architecture, Building Information Modeling, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Plumbing Engineering, Project Management, MEP Systems, Design-Build, Sustainable Design

"The recreation and aquatic center offers best-in-class design and amenities...and is a place for everyone. [We] hope that all of our residents look to this facility as a source of pride and connection."

Kasim Reed
former Mayor of Atlanta

The Impact

Promoting unity in the heart of the city.

Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the recreation and aquatic center was strategically built between the King Memorial MARTA station, the Atlanta Streetcar, and the Edgewood Avenue corridor for community accessibility. Unity and inclusion is paramount in the design of the entire facility - from its siting and location to the all-encompassing roof to accessibility measures. The impressive 25-yard lap pool - nestled directly in the entryway and exposed behind a glass exterior wall - serves as a symbol of progress and as an extension of the Civil Rights leader’s ideals for something that was once used in the machinery of racism, segregation and divisiveness. The facility serves as a vibrant public gathering space for the local community and inspires a sense of pride and connection among residents.

"This beautiful, state-of-the-art facility offers recreational programming to residents of all ages and abilities and serves as an essential communal gathering space."

Amy Phuong
former Parks and Recreation Commissioner, City of Atlanta

Project Recognition

AIA St. Louis Chapter Design Awards, Merit Award
Atlanta Urban Design Commission, Award of Excellence, Interior Design of Public Spaces
Urban Land Institute Atlanta, Finalist, Excellence in Civic/Institutional Development
LEED Gold Certified