With designs in the works and funding planned, city leaders say Westerville is on track to finish its planned community center expansion in less than two years.

City staff members have been working since 2015 on plans for the expansion of the existing community center at 350 N. Cleveland Ave.

The project 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.

The funding paved the way for the project, which has been in development for nearly three years.

In May, the parks department began presenting three possible designs in focus groups, meetings and forums with residents, asking for input along the way.

But rather than choosing just one option and leaving out some amenities, parks and recreation director Randy Auler said his staff was able to combine all three.

"I always talk about being data-driven, and we got a lot of data from the community," Auler said. "I think we've been able to accommodate pretty much everything the community laid out for us."

One of the major components of the expansion was a new location for the Westerville Senior Center, which occupies a small facility at 310 W. Main St. The senior center's new home will be two to three times bigger than its existing space, according to Auler.

Along with the senior center space, a variety of amenities will come with the expansion.

Auler said plans include a third gymnasium, an expanded track, an "adventure-fitness" area, expanded workout space, a therapy pool, "interactive" water slides and renovated locker rooms and bathrooms.

With so many additions, Auler said he didn't have a favorite.

"I'm excited about all of them because we're going to be able to be so many things for so many people," he said. "I think they're all really needed, and will really bring that 'wow factor' to the community."

The parks and recreation department is still finishing what Auler calls the "design and development phase" of the project, which means detailed renderings and plans aren't complete.

He said he expects them to be done by late January or early February.

Christa Dickey, a city spokeswoman, said the remainder of targets for the project have already been set.

She said she expects council to approve the issuance of $20 million in bonds for the project – which were factored into the city's 2018 budget – in March or April.

Next, the city's planning commission is scheduled to approve plans sometime in April, while construction documents and overall plans finish in April or May.

By June, the city should be able to award a construction contract, with construction taking place from July 2018 through fall of 2019. The city has set October 2019 as the projected completion date.

Auler said he's "not to the point yet" that he can say what kind of interruptions could be expected during the construction, though he acknowledged parts of the center will need to close during the work.

"The center is going to be open while we have construction going on," he said. "There will be times when some areas may be closed off, but we're looking at how those pieces are going to work to be sure we minimize the effect, in terms of operation."

According to Auler, the community center has more than 650,000 visitors each year.

And as he sees it, the community center expansion will increase that number by increasing the possibilities for visitors.

"What it does is enable more people to be served at the center itself," he said. "By bringing the older-adult component over, we'll have everything under one roof. ... But at the end of the day, this whole project is about better serving the community."

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