Westerville is one step closer to beginning work on the expansion of its community center.

City Council members April 3 saw a presentation from parks and recreation director Randy Auler that outlined the most finalized plans for the expansion yet.

The $20 million project – to be paid for by bonds that are expected to be issued Tuesday, April 17 – has been in the works since 2015.

It was a key component of the city's push to renew Westerville's Parks, Recreation and Open Space 0.25-percent city income tax, which was extended through 2040 by Westerville voters in November 2014.

A variety of amenities have been kicked around since then, including activity areas and improvements to existing infrastructure at the community center, 350 N. Cleveland Ave.

But now, Auler said, the list is largely finalized, with some wiggle room for construction management companies to add alternatives if they can fit them into the budget.

Plans include a new multi-use room that Auler said would "enable us to hold much larger events than we're able to do now" and "accommodate a much larger crowd" for events such as the Community Prayer Breakfast or the city's Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast.

More traditional amenities, such as a multisurface flooring gym and a warm-water therapy pool, are joined by less traditional amenities, like an "adventure fitness" space, which Auler said would have timing and scoring features to keep visitors coming back.

A "demonstration kitchen" would have "extensive" programming that mirrors cooking shows, and is one of multiple offerings that are less about fitness and more about lifestyle.

"The demonstration kitchen is something we heard quite a bit through the public process," Auler said. "When you're home and watching TV, you can't turn to a channel that doesn't have cooking opportunities and education opportunities."

In that same vein is the eSports area, a space that will be reserved for gaming teams to play and compete together. Auler cited professional sports franchises with eSports teams and colleges that offer scholarships for eSports as evidence for including the space.

"It's really something that's for people of all ages and has really caught on across the whole country," he said.

The project also will renovate some existing portions of the center.

Auler said renovations will triple the size of the existing workout areas and provide for several updates at the leisure pool.

The plans also would increase parking spaces from 373 to 546, he said.

The project is about two months behind schedule, but Auler said the delay is simply because his department has spent so much time ironing out details.

"We've really been working through these experiences to make sure we get these right," he said.

Now the expansion is on track to begin in earnest this summer.

Auler said he expects construction documents to be complete in June, with the project ready to be sent out for bids in August. The bid would be awarded in September, with construction beginning in October and lasting until about December 2019.

Councilman Alex Heckman inquired about renewable energy options, and Auler said his department has been "working with our electric division" on solar panels, which he said are "certainly something we want to do."

He said the expansion portion of the roof of the facility will be solar-panel ready, and council chairman Mike Heyeck said that opened up multiple opportunities.

"The community center is not the purchaser of solar panels," he said. "It could be our electric division, or we could use it to offset someone like an office building that would want to use that to net their energy. So there are other opportunities for solar panels, other than our parks and recreation department paying for them."

For more information on the project, visit westerville.org.

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