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The city of Marco Island is finally ready to move forward on building a new $3.5 million community center in Mackle Park.

The new building would be built on the site of the 30-year-old facility, necessitating the relocation of staff into temporary trailers on the property. That building would include meeting rooms, a teen center with game room, a small kitchen and other related space and storage areas.

“We will now proceed to develop site development plans for review by the growth management team and construction documents that will be ‘bid ready’ for the new building,” said City Manager Roger Hernstadt.

The estimated cost for the building stands at approximately $2.7 million with another $800,000 for ancillary items and a contingency reserve that would put it at the $3.5 million figure approved by voters in the summer 2014.

In 2004 the Mackle Park Master Plan was developed through public hearing and a community discussion regarding what residents wanted to see in the park. That final plan would include a new community center when it was completed. City Council in February approved that plan after hearing from the public and many of the enhancements made to the park have been completed. The community center building remains as the final project.

Since then, a number of discussions have been held regarding what that building might look like and how it could best service the community. In 2009 a plan for a two-story, 40,000-square-foot facility with an elevated track, air conditioned gymnasium and multiple meeting spaces was developed and met with serious opposition from the community due to its projected cost and size.

A secondary proposal was proposed by staff that would have reduced the size of the building to approximately 20,000 square feet and fared little better before the public and city council.

Discussions were held regarding public/private partnerships, tilt-up construction and reducing the size of the building to just over 16,000 square feet with no gymnasium. Supporters of the project would continue to build momentum and the election of 2012 would see candidates pledge to bring the project to a referendum vote for approval prior to moving forward.

“I would want the approval of our citizens before I could sign onto this,” said Amadeo Petricca who would be elected to the council seat during that election.

Council member Ken Honecker did some of the initial research on alternative building construction techniques to help bring down the costs of the building.

“It really was Ken Honecker who helped move this along because of his research and work. That is how we arrived at the $3.5 million figure,” said council member Bob Brown.

That pledge for a referendum would take two years to fulfill and on Aug. 26, 2014, voters approved a non-binding referendum to spend no more than $3.5 million to construct a new community center at Mackle Park. It would then take almost another year to have architect Victor J. Latavish of Naples to proceed with the design of a building that would conform to the financial parameters as outlined by the council and voters.

Council and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee finally got to see a design which the parks advisory group and council would give an approving nod to earlier this month.

The size of the building has once again shrunk due to the delays and escalating construction costs, and would now represent a structure of slightly more than 10,400 square feet under air and another 2,200 square feet of covered exterior space.

“I believe we are heading in the right direction here,” said Gerald Swiacki, chairman of the city’s parks and recreation advisory committee after their meeting in October. “The committee have been dedicated to seeing the completion of this much-needed project.”

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