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    Sunday, February 25, 2024

    Construction on $40M New London community center set to begin

    New London ― City officials expect construction to begin this month on a $40 million community recreation center that is slated to open its doors in 2025.

    Work crews in July will descend on seven acres of city-owned land on the Fort Trumbull peninsula and begin erecting the 58,000-square-foot facility, Felix Reyes, director of New London’s Office of Planning and Development, said this past week.

    “We’re just waiting for the state (Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) to sign off on the project’s flood plan certificate and work can start,” he said. “That will happen within the next few weeks.”

    The project’s initial $30 million price tag jumped by approximately $10 million as more detailed cost figures emerged, Reyes said, with the gap later filled with a combination of state and federal funding.

    “When this proposal was brought to the City Council (in 2021) for approval of the original $30 million in bond funding, they were assured that we’d leverage federal and state money to fill any (funding) gaps,” Reyes said.

    The center’s opening date, previously pegged for 2024, has been tentatively pushed out to 2025 due to delays in securing a final round of brownfield remediation funding, along with a lengthier-than-anticipated state permitting process, Reyes said.

    The city was previously awarded a $1.2 million grant through the state’s Brownfield Remediation program for pre-construction site work. The City Council in June approved the city’s application for $600,000 more in clean-up funding from the state.

    “There’s a chance the construction crews will make up that lost construction time,” Reyes said. “We expect the bulk of the building to be up by the end of next year. But months before the center’s done, we’ll start bringing in members of the third-party company that will eventually run the day-to-day operations of the center.”

    While the city’s recreation department is expected to run some programming at the site, general oversight and operation of the facility will be the responsibility of a private company the city will hire. The hiring process is expected to begin by the end of this year.

    Plans for the center include a community lounge, classroom space for early childhood programming, two-court gymnasium, eight-lane pool, track area and workout and game rooms.

    Reyes said area residents currently must travel to the YMCA branches in Mystic and Westerly to avail themselves of similar recreational options. The facility is expected to cost $2 million a year to run with revenue generated by memberships, rental fees and sponsorships.

    “The city was never looking for this facility to be a moneymaker,” Reyes said. “It’s about giving all our residents access to recreational options.”

    Conversations about exactly what kind of programming will be offered at the center are still in the early stages, but Recreation Department Director Joshua Posey said the new facility brings with it a host of possibilities, including expanded youth swimming and basketball offerings.

    “And it’s not just sports I’m thinking about, but things like cooking classes and other new enrichment programming,” he said. “As a resident here for the last decade, this center is a dream come true.”

    j.penney@theday.com

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