Opening set for Westerville Community Center's expanded facilities

MARLA K. KUHLMAN
mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com
Randy Auler, Westerville's parks and recreation director, said he hopes the community center's indoor pool, with new play structure slides, can be open later this summer.

Patrons of the Westerville Community Center, 350 N. Cleveland Ave., will be permitted to work out in a new fitness area, run on the expanded track or use a new gymnasium beginning Monday, June 15.

Westerville Parks & Recreation director Randy Auler said he thinks residents will be drawn to the north end of the expanded center that has multiple fitness choices ready for use.

"We are eager to reveal the improvements and new offerings to the community, at least in part, this coming June 15," said David Collinsworth, Westerville city manager. "This project provides a major improvement to our indoor recreational offerings and amenities that I believe the community will find exciting and inviting."

Auler said the fitness area has expanded from about 5,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet on two levels, featuring 100 pieces of equipment from free weights to upper cardio and performance tools.

Users must stay 6 feet apart and wipe down equipment after use, he said.

"We will meet and exceed state guidelines," Auler said, referring to safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

He said the indoor track has been extended, and it also will be open for use.

"It used to take 10 laps for a mile," he said. "With the new track, it takes seven laps for a mile."

A performance area, similar to CrossFit, is near the track.

City staff members have been working since 2015 on plans for expanding the community center.

The project was a key component of the city's push to renew Westerville's Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces 0.25% city income tax, which was extended through 2040 by Westerville voters in November 2014.

Auler said the tax raises $5 million to $5.8 million annually that is used for park development projects and replacement of needed items.

The cost of the new construction on the center is about $20.5 million, taking the facility from 96,000 square feet to 145,000 square feet, Auler said.

He said the goal is to have the entire project completed in August and have everything available for safe use.

An adventure-fitness opportunity has been completed but it will be "on hiatus" because of the coronavirus, Auler said.

The course includes a climbing net, a swing ladder, rings and other pieces that could be interchanged, he said.

A new water-play structure slide has been added to the indoor pool but remains closed until further notice.

A new three-lane warm-water therapy pool is in the process of being built on the south wing, which is being dedicated to housing the senior center currently at 310 W. Main St.

Auler said the new location should more than double the space of the senior center and will allow the Westerville Senior Association to grow.

The center also will include such cutting-edge amenities as an eSports (gaming) room and a Food Network-style demonstration kitchen.

"I think we captured what the community expressed a strong need for," Auler said. "I think they will use it at a high rate. It's a hub of recreational activity and something the community values. We're pleased to provide this service to the community."

He said the center averages 8,000 passholders with usage ramping up in the winter. About 2,400 programs are offered to the community annually.

Auler said modifications of the facility for the June 15 opening include:

* Temperature checks are required for all visitors and staff entering the facility.

* Face coverings must be worn by visitors and staff when entering and exiting the center but may be removed while exercising.

* Social distancing will be strictly enforced.

* Facility capacity will be 50% of occupancy.

* No locker storage will be provided; patrons will be required to keep their belongings with them at all times.

* Fitness areas will be disinfected frequently by users and strictly enforced.

* No games will be allowed in the gymnasium for social-distancing compliance. No shared equipment will be permitted.

* Single-file-only use on the track will be required for walking and jogging.

Areas remaining closed include child care (Sprout's wait room), locker rooms, the playground, water fountains, the climbing wall, adventure play and social and common areas.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla