Ocean City shows off newly renovated community center

By CAITLIN DINEEN, Staff Writer | Press of Atlantic City
Posted: Friday, October 29, 2010

OCEAN CITY - After more than two years of construction and three decades of discussions, the Ocean City Community Complex - which houses the city's library, senior center, aquatic and fitness center and museum - was reopened Friday with a ribbon cutting and an afternoon of thanks.

"It's going to be an amazing complex," Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian said during the ceremony, which had about 250 people in attendance including designers from Garrison Architects of Marlton. Gillian and others associated with the project who spoke Friday said they were thankful to see the facility completed and already in use.

The building was buzzing with activity before city and county officials, local residents and people who worked on the project gathered to celebrate its completion.

"We still have some work to do here," Gillian said. "And we will continue to work until it's the best facility it can be."

Despite work Gillian said needs to be done, including renovations and updates to the city's museum, employees who work in the $15 million facility, which was paid for by county and city funding, said they were happy with how the final product turned out and are glad to be part of a one-building facility.

"I think with it all being under one roof now, people coming in will wander into places where they didn't go before," Karen Pratz, aquatic supervisor at the Aquatic and Fitness Center, said following the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Pratz said the building never truly closed during renovations, but constant changes, including which door to enter through and what sections of the facility were temporarily closed, made the last two years

hectic at the center.

The fitness center saw a 2,500-square-foot expansion, with the addition of four new locker rooms, a weight room, a cardio room and a new child care room.

Those changes, and proposed changes to the aerobic room and pool area in 2011, will make for a more complete and comprehensive facility, Pratz said.

Lisa Rumer, program supervisor for the fitness center, said the library, museum and fitness center had been under one roof before, but they each had separate entrances and shared no common area.

Now, with the complex's large atrium - complete with a cafe area - the facility is more welcoming to the entire community, Rumer said.

"It's been an actual plus for all the members coming and going," she said, adding that with a central entrance, residents are able to see all the offerings on the city in one area rather than navigating through three separate entities.

Library officials who have also dealt with years of dust, loud noises and constant changes in pedestrian traffic patterns said the new building will make for a better community.

Ocean City Free Public Library Assistant Director Leslie Clarke said the final product was "worth waiting for."

Clarke, who has worked at the library since 1990, said she was thrilled for the ribbon cutting so residents would know the facility is operating as normal and is ready for their patronage.

As part of its expansion, the library grew 10,000 square feet and renovations included a lecture hall that can seat 80 people.

The new county-operated senior center will formally open its doors to local senior citizens the third week of November.


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