A $30 million community recreation center — an idea talked about for decades — will be built at Fort Trumbull under a plan unanimously endorsed by the City Council on Monday.
The facility, still in the planning phase, is being praised by advocates who say the city is in desperate need for indoor recreational space, especially considering the sale last year of the Richard R. Martin Center, which had been home to the Recreation Department offices and a variety of youth and senior activities.
The new 62,000-square-foot facility would be built on 6.8 acres at Fort Trumbull, a site that has elicited some push back from residents who have argued the city is using prime real estate better suited for a tax-paying entity. Several people expressed support for the project while a few voiced concerns about the cost during a City Council meeting on Monday.
“Growing up we had the Martin Center but that’s about it. It was limited space and a very old building that needed a lot of work,” Janelle Colon, a lifelong resident of New London, said in a letter to the council.
“In a town where sports are very relevant , a community center is needed desperately. Not only for the kids but the community as whole. Children can get help with school or seniors can attend a knitting class. Or a single mom can get help with childcare after school. These things are needed in every community. So why not ours?” she said.
“I’m a mother of 2 children who live in this community and I really hope that my kids have a place to go and be excited that it’s right in their city,” Colon said.
New London NAACP Vice President Tamara Lanier, said one of the recurring responses to the question “how to move the city forward” at NAACP forums through the years was the development of a community center.
“It’s an investment in our young people. It’s and investment in our elderly and it’s an investment in positive and instructive programming in the city of New London,” Lanier said.
The proposed facility would house a two-court gymnasium, six-lane indoor pool, lounge and game room, six multi-purpose rooms and administrative offices and space to house the city’s Recreation and Youth Affairs departments. The design is still subject to change.
The estimated $2.1 million in annual operating costs would be funded through membership fees and rental income. Brailsford and Dunlavey, the firm hired by the city to develop the plan, tentatively puts membership costs at $6 per day, $30 per month and $300 per year. Lower and moderate income families would pay lower rates on a sliding scale based on income.
The city projects that revenues will exceed operational costs by the fourth year in operation. Those revenues combined with potential funding from corporate sponsors and fundraising efforts would contribute to a capital improvement fund and help defray the project’s debt. The city would pay an average of $2.2 million per year over 20 years to pay back the money borrowed for the project.
This is an excerpt from an article originally published by The Day. Read the full piece here.