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Oconomowoc community center packs plenty of 'wow' factor

A shiny new recreation facility awaits its public

Jan. 9, 2013

"The common word when you bring someone upstairs is, 'Wow,' " said Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director John Kelliher of the reaction to the striking views of Lac La Belle from the second level of the new community center.

There's no doubt there's plenty of "wow" factor with the new 21,000-square-foot $4.5 million center. A grand opening for the new community centerpiece is slated for Feb. 7.

It's obvious the new rec center is a far cry from the rundown facility that once stood down the road, and that anything would be an improvement. But Kelliher pointed out on several occasions how the design of the new space was tweaked and retweaked to keep the entire community in mind. The community center isn't just a space for yoga, taekwondo or aerobics classes.

Simply put, the center is modeled after its name - a center for the community - and will be used for pretty much any use the community needs.

"Twenty-one-thousand square feet is a great size for a building, but we needed it to be multifunctional and not just for one use," said Kelliher.

The Focus toured the new center as Kelliher pointed out the bells and whistles, and details the make the space multifunctional.

1. Foyer

Kelliher said the goal was to make the main entrance to the center "inviting." The space was planned to accommodate traffic, those waiting for a class to start or maybe to be picked up and the reception area. A flat-screen TV is positioned above the reception area that will display classes, community information and possibly information about where a private event can be found in the center.

2. First-floor space

Staff offices are behind the reception area. Also on the first floor is a room outfitted for the community center's preschool programs. A tile floor offers easy cleanup, a projector for educational programs. These programs will be catered by carts on wheels that can easily move to storage so the room can be used by other groups.

There is also a public meeting room adjacent to the staff offices on the first level that is outfitted with a dry erase board, data port and projector. The room can be accessed after hours by organizations that might want to use it for regular meetings.

3. Dance studio

A visual treat to the left of the first floor entrance is the new dance studio. With full-length mirrors along one wall and windows along others, the studio is a bright, open space. Plie bars are adjustable for different heights of dancers, and the floor is constructed with layers underneath that offer give and cushion to minimize impact. Against the wall are cubbies to hold your things and a shelf for water bottles.

"This room will be one of the heaviest-booked rooms for activities. We don't have a locker room - this is not a fitness center, it's a community center - so we created these cubbies and a countertop to store things," explained Kelliher.

Eco lights

The studio is also outfitted with a complete sound system and an eco-lighting system that senses the amount of daylight coming into the room automatically dimming when more natural light comes in.

"It keeps consistent lighting and saves energy," said Kelliher of the eco-lighting system not only in the dance studio but throughout the center.

4. Decks

A deck wraps around the first level of the center, and the city received a $15,000 grant from the Oconomowoc Area Foundation to install permanent picnic tables. The tables will be installed on the west side of the building offering a view of the band shell and city beach.

A second deck is on the upper level of the center where one can walk out and enjoy wide open views of Lac La Belle.

5. Security

Access to the center can be controlled at all times, said Kelliher.

"We use secure cards, and the card can be limited to have access" to only the times those with access cards need to be at the center. For example, Kelliher said an aerobics instructor may teach a class at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday. They will have access to the building around that time, and the door may lock behind them and those using the class and not reopen for anyone trying to get in afterward.

Cameras can be found throughout the interior and exterior building. The entire system is operated by a server room near the staff offices.

6. Future restaurant

The city is preparing to seek proposals for a vendor to occupy a 1,400-square-foot restaurant on the ground level of the community center. The restaurant would be accessed the ground level to serve beach and lake traffic in warmer months. Kelliher said he already has interest from about a half-dozen potential vendors. He said the goal is to have a vendor approved by the first week of March. The area is now unfinished so a vendor would be able to architecturally design it to their needs.

Extra space

There is another larger space that is also undersigned on the center's ground level. Kelliher said the city could later modify it to serve rec programs. He said it can also be used as a warming area for ice skaters in the winter and a dry refuge during inclement weather in the summer.

Also downstairs is a cold storage area and an extra storage space only recently realized after the city had to install extra support for the upper level deck when soil issues were discovered. Kelliher said since the city had undergo the extra expense and work, officials decided to make use of the space, enclosing it and creating extra storage, which is a definite benefit since the goal is to have multiple use of areas at any given time.

7-8 Upper level

The top floor of the community center is the obvious centerpiece of the space. With expansive views of Lac La Belle from numerous windows in a wide open floor space, the top level will be ideal for large or small private gatherings and an ideal place to enjoy Oconomowoc's natural landscape for community center users.

The top level can be separated into three sections - west, center and east - with dividing walls and the level's sound system can also be divided to serve each section. Kelliher said you can have calming yoga music going on at one end and high-energy aerobic music at another for the two classes.

The level is outfitted with a bar and warming kitchen. There is also a storage area for tables and chairs that has an added detail of being able to serve as a coat room when empty for private functions.

"A year ago we spent two days at different recreation facilities (in the area) and took photos of things staff liked and tried to pull bits and pieces and work with the architect," to make them work at the city's community center, Kelliher explained. The storage-coat room is one of them found on the top floor, and secure storage lockers are another. The lockers can be used by instructors to store their things, or can be rented by private groups who may want to store a few things at the center before their event.

Grand opening

The public is invited to tour the center at a grand opening event from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7. A ribbon-cutting is planned for 5:30 p.m. that day.

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