Kennesaw’s Day with Santa canceled; recreation center may be completed early

new Kennesaw recreation center renderingRendering of Kennesaw recreation center (courtesy of the City of Kennesaw)

Kennesaw city officials cited spiking COVID numbers as the reason for canceling the annual Day with Santa event scheduled to take place Dec. 5.

The city held a pared-down version of its annual Big Shanty Festival last month, its first large public event since the pandemic began. However, Parks Director Steve Roberts told the council at Monday’s work session, that as COVID cases and hospitalization numbers rise, city employees have voiced concerns about Saturday’s event. City Manager Jeff Drobney also said he was concerned for staff’s safety.

“We would still have a virtual tree lighting with the mayor coming in to say a few words, and we would broadcast that over Facebook live and do the lighting. But for the safety and welfare of our employees and our visitors, not have what we had originally planned. We were hopeful that the numbers would be going down, but they’re just not,” Drobney said.

A reverse Christmas parade, in which the spectators move to look at the floats rather than the floats following a route, is planned for Dec. 12. Councilman Doc Eaton questioned the level of interest from the public in that event as well. Roberts responded that he was reviewing the registration numbers to gauge whether to move forward.


Drobney raised discussion about the 2022 Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax, which passed in November. Three items, the Sardis Street Overpass, the recreation center and Depot Park, were included in both the 2016 and 2022 SPLOSTs.

“The mayor and council have the ability to reallocate dollars from the 2016 SPLOST,” Drobney said. He suggested taking $6 million from the Sardis Street Overpass and applying $4 million to the recreation center and $2 million to phase 8 of Depot Park, which is the amphitheater. According to Drobney, the city can save $470,000 by moving forward on the recreation center because it can be completed all at one time rather than completing phase 1, and then having to close the facility in two years and tear off a wall to complete phase 2.

The recreation center will be in Adams Park, a 33-acre area containing lighted baseball, tennis and softball fields, batting cages and a playground. Phase 1 will be approximately 21,500 square feet and contain two multi-purpose gyms, a fitness area and offices. Phase 2 will be about 18,200 square feet and contain another multi-purpose gym, a dedicated gymnastics area and a walking track that will extend into phase 1.

“It just makes logical sense, but we couldn’t do anything until we got that 2022 SPLOST passed,” Drobney said.

He told the council that reallocating money towards Depot Park will allow the city to make continuous headway on the design and construction. He also said that the council members can later reallocate the $6 million that was set aside for the recreation center in the 2022 SPLOST to complete the Sardis Street Overpass project.

Councilman Chris Henderson was supportive of the idea. “We’re not moving back the Sardis Street [project]. It’s still going to be done in the same amount of time, but we’ll get the money later. I see nothing but positives,” he said.

The issue will be up for a vote at Monday’s regular city council meeting.

Council meetings are held at 2529 J.O. Stephenson Ave. at the Kennesaw City Hall in Council Chambers on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are also available to be viewed on the City of Kennesaw Government Facebook page.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.