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Copyright 2018 Valley News Nov 29, 2018

Valley News; White River Junction, Vt.


Newport — A presentation of preliminary plans for a new recreation center in Newport left supporters of the project feeling like a million bucks.

At the end of the presentation on Wednesday night, Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg announced the town has received an anonymous donation of $1 million for the project, contingent upon the town raising an additional $2 million.

"It is a great way to start the project," Rieseberg said about the donation at the public forum, attended by members of the Community Center Committee and Selectboard. "We are setting out to meet the challenge and make that happen."

The new center would be built adjacent to the Little League Field on Meadow Road, across the street from Bill Bates Memorial Field. The Little League field would be reoriented to accommodate the roughly 20,000-square-foot facility at the northwest corner of the property. The center would include a large gymnasium, three multipurpose rooms, a fitness room, team rooms and a concession area.

John Dale, architect with BreadLoaf Architects of Middlebury, Vt., said the building's design was geared toward allowing for simultaneous use.

"You could hold six or seven different activities at once in the center," Dale said.

The preliminary cost estimate presented on Wednesday is $6.65 million, a figure Fred Bellucci, vice president of estimating and purchasing with BreadLoaf, said would not increase as they refine the final numbers.

"We will talk to subcontractors and get budgets from them so we can home in and sharpen up the numbers," Bellucci said.

Some of Wednesday's discussion was about materials for flooring and the exterior and other aspects of the design where costs could be trimmed. For example, the center will be air-conditioned, but savings could be found in reducing the number of zoned areas for AC, said John Johnston, an engineer with BreadLoaf.

By the end of January, the town will have a "guaranteed maximum price," Bellucci said.

The estimated total cost, which includes site development and construction and professional fees, is far less than the $9 million-$11 million price tag that was first mentioned after a design and feasibility study looked at three options for upgrading the town's aging recreation center on Belknap Avenue. Those ideas proposed a 30,000-square-foot center with an elevated track on a second floor.

The significantly reduced cost reflects what Selectboard member and Vice Chairman of the community center committee Todd Fratzel said in May after voters narrowly approved spending $200,000 to hire an architect to design a new center.

"The close vote says how hard we have to work (on the final design) so it is affordable for everyone," Fratzel said after Town Meeting.

The proposed 20,000-square-foot facility would be designed for a multitude of athletic and nonathletic activities from basketball, volleyball, pickleball and indoor soccer to dancing, flea markets, teen clubs and birthday parties.

The current recreation center was built as an armory in 1940 and has been the recreation center since 1967.

The feasibility study looked at expanding the center or renovating Towle Elementary school to meet the town's recreational needs for space and programs; neither option was determined to be as cost-effective as a new center.

Rieseberg said the town plans to post Wednesday's presentation on the its website and also use the site to give residents updates on the project design, its costs and town fundraising.

If voters approve the project at Town Meeting in May, Dale said construction would begin in September and the new center would open in June 2020.

Patrick O'Grady can be reached at [email protected]


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November 29, 2018


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