New Richmond Centre poised to expand againAfter three years of growing membership, The New Richmond Area Centre is busting at the seams and ready to expand.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
After three years of growing membership, The New Richmond Area Centre is busting at the seams and ready to expand.
“This is the right time for us to do this,” Centre Executive Director Darian Blattner said. “On Monday we set an all-time high membership of 1,954. We started with just 770 in 2009.”
Centre officials met with residential neighbors recently to unveil their plans and gather feedback from people. There didn’t appear to be any objections from those who attended the meeting, said Jean Needham, a Centre board member.
About 4,100 square feet of space will be demolished and 9,500 square feet of new space will be constructed under the plan.
“It would put The Centre in a position to provide more for the community and for our members,” Blattner said. “I’m excited to get this process started.”
According to preliminary plans released last week, The Centre hopes to tear down the two-story portion of the old National Guard Armory complex and replace it with four classrooms that will house the facility’s Kids Cove child care space, the 3-year-old preschool program and the growing Pre-Kindergarten program.
According to Blattner, about 50 children were turned away last summer from the facility’s popular kids program and demand for its Pre-K program is also strong.
With the addition of an extra Pre-K room, The Centre will be able to offer four sections of half-day programming for kids. The Pre-K program is funded by the school district but conducted at several facilities across the city.
“Right now, we can only accept 24 kids,” Blattner said. “With the expansion, we’ll have space for 40.”
A 2,000-square-foot addition would also be constructed along the southwest hallway of the facility. That space would be designated as a multi-purpose room available for use by community groups.
“We have to turn those groups away right now because we don’t have the room,” Blattner said.
Space currently used for the child care and pre-school programs will be renovated into a new aerobics studio, an expanded fitness and strength room and an improved fitness center with more equipment, like treadmills and cross trainers.
The Centre is hoping to receive the necessary approvals from the city at the council’s Jan. 9 meeting. The city owns The Centre complex and leases it to the non-profit organization that runs it and the council has to approve any work done on the building.
If all the approvals line up, and financing is secured, Blattner said the goal is to begin construction in the spring. The added space would then be completed and available for use by the fall of 2012.
“It’s a fairly aggressive plan,” he said. “But our construction folks say it’s a plan they can meet.”
The new addition will be constructed in a way that a second floor could be added if The Centre and community continue to grow, Blattner said. The most recent addition to The Center also is constructed in such a way that a second floor can be added.
The Centre will also be completing its parking lot expansion this spring, to help alleviate parking issues during busy times. An extra 22 to 25 spots will be added to the north end of the current parking area.
As The Centre completes its expansion, the facility will solidify itself as a gathering place for the community, Needham said.
“It’s a gem,” Needham said. “This has really become a central place for the community.”
With the support of the city, and a commitment from members, The Centre’s success over the past three years has been nothing short of phenomenal, Needham said. When the YMCA left town and a non-profit group was organized to take over the operation, no one was certain how things would turn out. The Centre met and surpassed all of its membership goals ever since.
“We felt all along that if we made it affordable, there was no reason why this shouldn’t be successful,” Needham said.
Even with the expansion, Blattner said membership fees will continue to remain very affordable for anyone who wants to join.
The Centre hasn’t had a hike in its membership fees for three years, and over the next 10 years plans call for just a $4 per month increase.