New facility rises: Mackle Park community center scheduled for October opening
If words could build a community center, the building would be done long since.
As it is, construction proceeds, and the new Mackle Park Community Center should be completed and open for business in October.
Many words over many years were expended on the desirability and, really, the necessity for a new structure to replace the overburdened facility at Mackle Park.
After years of discussion, plans, cost estimates, scaled-down plans, a vote of the city electorate and another by the Marco Island City Council, the community center at Mackle Park was demolished, physically knocked down by heavy mechanized equipment on Aug. 8 of last year, to make way for the new, larger building.
A plaque, its wood rotting and letters peeling, is attached to a still standing column at the park, bearing the date June 1987, long before Marco Island became a city, when the original park structure was dedicated.
One of the county commissioners whose names are visible on the sign is Burt Saunders. He since went from commissioner to state senator, then representative, was term-limited out of office, and served as Marco Island city attorney for years, before leaving that post and being once again elected a county commissioner, just to give an idea of how long the old Community Center served.
The new $3.5 million building, built to current codes, but much smaller than the original proposal for a $10 million upgrade, will nevertheless allow for greatly expanded programs and activities by island residents.
The vote of Marco Island citizens on Aug. 26, 2014, approved a maximum expenditure of $3.5 million for a new Mackle Park facility, in a non-binding referendum that prompted the City Council to authorize appropriating the funds. The project was significantly scaled down from the original proposals, which had contemplated spending from $9 million up to $20 million. The new W-shaped community center will contain approximately 12,000 square feet under roof, up from 7,000 in the old building, and 10,400 sq. ft. of air-conditioned space.
As of last week, the building was dried in, with electrical and air conditioning functioning. Interior finishing, including cabinet work, doors, and fixtures is a work in progress, and the permanent roof surface is scheduled for installation this week. Landscaping and external walkways will come last.
The old center had one space for community meetings, and the new building will have five, with partitions to subdivide the rooms, and, noted Marco Island Parks & Recreation Department Cultural and Recreation Manager Samantha Malloy, actual closets in which to store chairs and the like, so they don’t have to just be stacked against the wall when not in use.
“It should be a lot less cluttered,” she said.
Only the building itself and the grounds immediately surrounding it are being replaced; all the outdoor facilities at Mackle Park, including the athletic fields, the spray park, playground, air-nasium, “tot lot,” bocce and shuffleboard courts have remained open and hosting their regular activities. Indoor programs that used to be held at the park have been held in space at the Family Church on Winterberry Drive during construction.
Malloy and Parks & Rec. facilities supervisor Martha Montgomery said the grand opening for the new center is tentatively scheduled for October 12, with a “soft opening” before that to familiarize community groups and the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee members with the new facility.
The actual construction of the building will be completed on Sept. 16, according to Public Works Director Tim Pinter; the completion date is nearly six weeks later than planned.
“The project was scheduled to be completed at the beginning of August, but the contractor received some extensions due to rain,” Pinter said.
And those extensions, he said, means the company will not be financially penalized for failing to complete the project within 12 months. Furthermore, the project is currently on track to come in right on budget.
Timely completion of major city construction projects has been a sore subject on the island, with work like the Herbert Savage Bridge (the span formerly known as the Smokehouse Bay Bridge) going months over the allotted time and triggering liquidated damages in a penalty clause.
But according to Pinter, all’s well with this city project.
“I know everybody’s really anxious to get it completed and see what it looks like and start using it,” he said, “and we’re looking forward to that, too.”