Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

TOP STORY >>Community center has quiet opening

Leader staff writer

The new community center in Cabot opened for business this week without any fanfare after the city conducted a final inspection Monday afternoon and declared the $4.1 million facility safe to occupy. A ribbon cutting is planned for Friday, Dec. 15, with a grand opening Jan. 1 to kick off the New Year, according to Carrol Astin, parks director.

Original plans called for a ribbon cutting Nov. 1 with the center actually opening two weeks later, but it was not completed in time. At midday Monday, Astin was working with installers on a door for disabled patrons that would open automatically. Not all the cardiovascular equipment was in place, but Astin said his plan was to open the center gradually beginning with a Tuesday morning meeting of the city’s economic development committee, which had booked a meeting room there.
Before the grand opening occurs, Astin hopes to open a winter version of Camp Cabot, the summer daycare program, for the children who will be out of school for the holidays.

“At least 80 percent of our population still leaves Cabot at six in the morning and doesn’t come back until six in the evening,” he said. Located on Highway 38 across from the high school on eight acres that used to be the American Legion ball field, the community center has been a long time in coming. Former Mayor Joe Allman was in his second term in office when Astin first presented to the city council pencil drawings of the building he wanted the city to build. But talk about the need for a facility with a heated swimming pool started almost a decade ago with the first parks commission.

The city purchased land for the center six years ago, when a group of World War II veterans who owned the ball field offered to sell it to the city for $50,000. With council approval, Allman bought the property, but it wasn’t until Stumbaugh became mayor that city voters were asked to reroute existing city revenue (a portion of the city’s 1.5 percent hamburger tax and a portion of the city millage) to pay for the facility.

When late in 2004, the construction bids came in at almost $1 million more than the 20-year bonds for $3 million the city had sold to local banks to pay for the center, the project stalled for several months while city leaders worked with architects to get the price down.

Eventually the extra money for building was included in a second bond issue funded in 2005 by extending an existing one-cent sales tax. The final cost of the 35,500-foot facility project was $4.1 million. That price includes a 25-meter pool, a therapy pool, a walking track, meeting rooms and two basketball courts.

The center will be open seven days a week. From Monday through Thursday it will be open from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. On Friday, the hours are 5 a.m. until 10 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday, the hours are 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Memberships start as low as $60 for three months for individuals 18 years and under and for seniors, and go as high as $360 for families for one year. For more information, go to www.cabotparks.net.