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‘Claremont Really Needed This’

Community Center To Open Today

  • Zoey Foote, 10, and Bella Wilkerson, 10, both of Claremont, enjoy the pool at the new community center during a sneak preview last night. Gov. Maggie Hassan will be on hand for a grand opening ceremony this morning. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Zoey Foote, 10, and Bella Wilkerson, 10, both of Claremont, enjoy the pool at the new community center during a sneak preview last night. Gov. Maggie Hassan will be on hand for a grand opening ceremony this morning. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tyler “Tank” Christian, 7, of Claremont, laughs as he tries out the new chest press in the workout room during “Volunteer Night” at the new community center in Claremont last night. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Tyler “Tank” Christian, 7, of Claremont, laughs as he tries out the new chest press in the workout room during “Volunteer Night” at the new community center in Claremont last night. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Building supervisor Marty Horton installs a row of elliptical machines in the workout room. The $10 million center has its grand opening today. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Building supervisor Marty Horton installs a row of elliptical machines in the workout room. The $10 million center has its grand opening today. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Zoey Foote, 10, and Bella Wilkerson, 10, both of Claremont, enjoy the pool at the new community center during a sneak preview last night. Gov. Maggie Hassan will be on hand for a grand opening ceremony this morning. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Tyler “Tank” Christian, 7, of Claremont, laughs as he tries out the new chest press in the workout room during “Volunteer Night” at the new community center in Claremont last night. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Building supervisor Marty Horton installs a row of elliptical machines in the workout room. The $10 million center has its grand opening today. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Claremont — Memberships are already outpacing projections at the city’s new community center and there appears to be near unanimity that the facility is a welcome addition to the city.

“It is a great to have a family place to go,” said Candace King, who swam with her husband, Daniel, and their daughter, Raegan, 2, during a two-hour open house last night. “Claremont really needed this.”

Today’s grand opening from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. will include an 11 a.m. appearance by Gov. Maggie Hassan for the ribbon cutting and formal dedication. The pool will be open from 12:30 to 3:30 and entertainment and tours are planned.

Construction of the 55,000-square-foot, $10 million facility at the corner of South and Broad streets began about a year ago. The center includes an eight-lane, 25-yard-long pool, a smaller lesson/fitness pool, a full sized gym, fitness room, elevated walking track and community rooms.

Colin and Michelle Premo were there last night with their children, Connor, 5, and Kyle, 2, enjoying the 85-degree water in the lesson pool, which is two-to-four-feet deep.

“I love it, and I think it is great they have a kids pool,” said Colin Premo. “The whole place is really family friendly.”

Premo said the warmer water made a big difference for his children.

“That old pool was so cold,” he said. “Their lips would turn blue.”

According to the Parks and Recreation staff, as of last night, about 1,550 memberships had been sold, just over the target.

“The numbers are astounding, and we haven’t even opened the doors,” City Manager Guy Santagate said.

Jeff Coburn, a recreation department volunteer, said one woman he spoke with from Sturbridge, Mass., bought a membership for weekends when she visits her mother in Claremont.

“She told me it cost her $900 a year for a membership at a fitness center in Sturbridge,” Coburn said. “Can you believe that?”

Today is the last day memberships can be purchased at a 10 percent discount. An annual family membership is $300 for residents and $375 for non-residents.

On the second floor, James Neilsen, the son of Mayor Jim Neilsen, and his wife, Virginia, were looking over some construction photos that have been made into a permanent display on one of the center’s walls.

“It is amazing,” said Virginia. “I feel they really thought about the community when they built it with the special events room. They did a beautiful job.”

Neilsen said her husband referees basketball, so when he is down on the court, she can get some exercise on the walking track above.

Terri and Alex Lapsley were poolside while their daughters, Madison, 11, and Emma, 8, swam.

“I’m excited because it is so close to the schools and the downtown,” said Terri. “It will be great for the community.”

Santagate said they have seen good crowds during this week’s open houses.

Looking out over the pool from behind one of the large windows on the second floor, the city manager reflected on the decision by the City Council in September 2011 to borrow $5.3 million to add to the $3 million donation from Claremont Savings Bank, which also donated most of the land, to complete the financing for the project.

“That was a tough decision,” Santagate said, adding he was reluctant to go that route and only proposed it when the bank announced the 2007 donation offer would expire in August 2012.

Originally, the financing was to come from a private fundraising effort that started just as the economy faltered.

Santagate praised the City Council for agreeing to the bond issue in the midst of a bad economy.

“They stood up and took some heat,” he said.

Pursuing the project during a poor economy had its benefits, however, including advantageous construction and labor costs.

“We got a great deal,” Santagate said.

Hutter Construction of New Ipswich, N.H., was able to hold the line on its original 2009 cost estimates for the most part.

The only significant change order was for site work because of debris in the soil.

“It came in on budget and on time,” said Santagate.

“We think the numbers (membership) will be right up there. We have seen a lot of community support. Even those who were not really behind it think it is a big plus for the city.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.