By John Butters, The JOURNAL
KALONA ? The city of Kalona is hosting an open house on Saturday, Aug. 25, from 1 to 4 p.m. for its new $5.3 million Community Center.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. YMCA and city staff will be available to answer questions about the facility and discuss membership options with visitors. The facility will open to the public on Monday, Aug. 27.
The new center merges a building that was once the city?s high school with a thoroughly modern recreational facility. The dual-purpose facility will house a recreational facility, and also will function as Kalona?s city office building.
?This is a facility that people can be proud of,? said Kalona City Manager Ryan Schlabaugh.
Built on the site of the current city hall, the community center?s address is 511 C Avenue, but the building fronts both Sixth Street and D Avenue. The entrance is located in the parking lot on the west side of the building.
The recreational facility will be managed by the YMCA, which also manages facilities in Washington and Wellman. Those purchasing a membership in Kalona will have access to the other communities? Y services as well.
Similar to the other Y?s, Kalona?s recreation center includes a full gym with wooden flooring and side courts.
The Kalona Y will include a 24/7 weight and exercise room with new equipment. During operating hours, patrons can access a walking track and multipurpose exercise rooms. The building includes a dance room, a spin cycling room and classrooms.
?It is a very functional facility. We spent the money on the right amenities,? Schlabaugh said.
The new development is the largest public building project in the city?s history and incorporates improved office space for city offices.
After considering building sites for the project, city officials named several factors in making a decision to keep the facility downtown.
They said the central location in downtown Kalona provided convenience for those needing to visit city hall.
Additionally, officials had concerns about the cost of purchasing vacant land for a facility the size of the recreation center and then constructing a new building at the site.
By re-purposing an existing building on land owned by the city, the project managers were able to build a facility that the community could afford, they said.
City officials have also indicated they think the new facility, located in the heart of downtown Kalona, would create additional synergies with the downtown business community. Officials have said that the center would bring people downtown and could spur increasing development of the community?s center.
Finally, the central location would allow visitors, and especially children, to easily bike or walk to the center.
The city has renovated the original building several times. This time, however, they tore down the 1936 gym to clear space for the new facility.
The city also acquired a small piece of property near the building for use as an additional parking lot.
The building was financed by grants from The Washington County Riverboat Foundation, private donations, a bond issue and state grants.