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Community Center Expansion Discussed

Open forum on April 23 solicited viewpoints and needs from community.

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Although 3,700 invitations were sent out to former and current users of the Vienna Community Center, only about 35 people showed up at the April 23 forum on the proposed expansion of the community center. Of those present, most favored expansion.

If you had an unlimited budget—or a magic wand—what would you turn the Vienna Community Center into? Most of the more-than 35 attendees at the Department of Parks and Recreation April 23 forum on the proposed expansion of the community center shared a consensus of what they hoped to see an expanded community center look like (from a large indoor swimming pool with retractable walls to a well-equipped fitness center and regulation-sized gym). Play equipment for young kids was high on the list, and a café/lounge would be of good use for adults waiting for kids in classes or adults who would like to socialize after their own classes. A new auditorium is on the wish list, as well. Community center users who favored an expanded physical plant felt that maintaining the teen center was vital to the community.

“This is a wish list,” said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Salgado to the assembled citizens. “Right now, we’re just prioritizing. We don’t have a budget yet.”

Vienna’s Parks and Recreation department emailed notification of the April 23 forum to 3,700 former and current users of the Vienna Community Center. The department, through a business partner, will be mailing surveys to every town address, giving residents the opportunity to make their views known.

To be clear, not everyone present at the forum was in favor of an expanded community center. One woman said that if Vienna residents were funding it through taxes, only Vienna residents should be allowed to use the new facility. Salgado responded that non-Town of Vienna users pay a supplement of 25 percent. She also said that user costs could be higher if a fewer number of people used it.

Another resident made it clear that the people present that evening represented a very small portion of Vienna residents and it should not be inferred from the forum that all residents are in favor of community center expansion. Neither person stayed for the duration of the forum.

Architect J. Lynn Reda led the presentation, describing the objectives the new center was expected to embrace, from maintaining the spirit of small-town Vienna to green incorporation. Attendees formed six focus groups of about six members each. A facilitator led the focus groups. On-wall charts suggested building options, which groups were asked to prioritize and to use as starting points for their own recommendations. An indoor pool, suitable for individuals, swim classes and team training appeared to come out on top, followed by fitness center and children’s resource facilities, including play equipment and drop-in child care services.

To generate revenue, some groups recommended rental by the community of any of the “new” center’s public spaces. Construction would be conducted in phases, with the most in-demand components being built first.

The next phase of the exploratory process is to solicit views via a mailed resident-survey. When the survey has been evaluated, the Department of Parks and Recreation will submit a proposal to the Town of Vienna Town Council.