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Putting community in Winter Park

This is a digital mock-up of the new Winter Park Community Center, which will include a gaming area, computer lab, swimming pool and more.

This is a digital mock-up of the new Winter Park Community Center, which will include a gaming area, computer lab, swimming pool and more.

Carmen Carroquino

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Putting the sense of community in Winter Park, the new $9.1 million community center will offer residents new and improved programs and recreation activities for the whole family.

Being built from the ground up on the existing site, the center, anticipated to be completed by next spring, will cover the spectrum of activities and programs offered in the old community center built in 1971, ranging from new youth and teen programs to an even more active senior program.

Located at 721 W. New England Ave., the new 38,000-square-foot facility — an increase of 16,000 square-feet from the old center, will include four multipurpose rooms, separate rooms dedicated to teens, children and seniors, a gaming area, computer lab, fitness room, a multi-depth swimming pool to accommodate all ages and abilities and a regulated-size gymnasium for sporting events — all state-of-the-art.

Ronald Moore, assistant director of the Parks and Recreation division of Winter Park, said the old center didn't accommodate the growth of participants well, nor did it allow for multiple events and programs to be run at the same time because of its design.

"The old one did not accommodate, space-wise, what we wanted to accomplish," Moore said. "It was outdated and contained operational flow issues too that presented problems for us like how to staff it and provide a safe environment for everyone."

Moore said growing security issues was also a problem in the old facility. He said a number of hidden areas and blind spots existed at the old facility where surveillance cameras couldn't see.

Promising a more user-friendly facility with ample space, Moore said the new facility is an updated, bigger and better version of the old one, saying that there will be designated space for every activity and no limit to the type of programs they can do and how many at a time.

Expanding off of their traditional summer and afterschool programs for children and seniors, Moore said he and the Park and Recreation division are in the planning and programming process of deciding what the budget for the center will be and what new program changes and additions will be made.

He said by the end of the summer they'll know more.

Clarissa Howard, director of communications for Winter Park, said the number one goal of the CRA strategic plan for 2008 through 2011 is the renovation/rebuilding of the Winter Park Community Center.

"The center is widely recognized as an integral component of community life," she said. "A new or renovated community center contributes not only to the quality of life of the residents, but also to the environment, economic prosperity, social development and the creation of a community focal point."

On Jan. 25, the CRA authorized an ordinance and the bonding of $8.1 million to rebuild the Winter Park Community Center on its existing site in Hannibal Square where the CRA will then fund the additional $1 million needed for the project from cash available in their budget.

Demolition of the old facility is now complete and materials are being recycled. Turner Construction will build the new center.

Dori DeBord, director of the community redevelopment agency of Winter Park, said the new community center is "crucial because it brings a sense of place to Winter Park."