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Inside Claremont’s New Community Center

  • A Hutter Construction employee welds part of a staircase inside Claremont’s new community center on Monday. The facility is scheduled to open to the public on Feb. 16.(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    A Hutter Construction employee welds part of a staircase inside Claremont’s new community center on Monday. The facility is scheduled to open to the public on Feb. 16.(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Miguel Camargo works to smooth the surface of the new Claremont community center’s indoor pool on Monday. The new 54,000-square-foot facility, which also includes community meeting rooms, a fitness center, an elevated walking track and a regulation-size basketball court, is scheduled to open in February. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Miguel Camargo works to smooth the surface of the new Claremont community center’s indoor pool on Monday. The new 54,000-square-foot facility, which also includes community meeting rooms, a fitness center, an elevated walking track and a regulation-size basketball court, is scheduled to open in February. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • An exterior view of the new community center in Claremont. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    An exterior view of the new community center in Claremont. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • A Hutter Construction employee welds part of a staircase inside Claremont’s new community center on Monday. The facility is scheduled to open to the public on Feb. 16.(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • Miguel Camargo works to smooth the surface of the new Claremont community center’s indoor pool on Monday. The new 54,000-square-foot facility, which also includes community meeting rooms, a fitness center, an elevated walking track and a regulation-size basketball court, is scheduled to open in February. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • An exterior view of the new community center in Claremont. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

Claremont — Step inside the new community center and the word that immediately comes to mind is “spacious.”

With a broad main hallway, large interior windows and wide entrances to the fitness room, walking track and gym, the center feels bigger inside than it looks from the outside.

“In the design, it was important to have the interior open with good visibility throughout, ” said Scott Hausler, Claremont’s parks and recreation director, during a recent tour of the facility.

In a little over a month, the center is scheduled to be turned over to the city, and two weeks later will open to the public.

“We are planning a ‘soft opening’ around Feb. 15th,” Hausler said. That’s about a year after Hutter Construction, of New Ipswich, N.H., began site work on the property at the corner of South and Broad streets.

“It is pretty much mostly finish work being done now,” Hausler said.

Right after the new year, plaster will be applied to the concrete pool, a process that involves slowly adding water to help the plaster cure. Earlier this month, workers in the 25-yard pool’s deep end, were scraping the concrete smooth in preparation for the plaster. Raised tiles mark the eight swimming lanes. The deck will also be tiled and there is sufficient room to roll in bleachers in for viewing during swim meets.

The main floor, off the entrance on South Street, begins with offices, the lobby and front desk with a game room area behind it.

The wall to the right has several large windows that overlook the pool and the smaller lesson and exercise pool.

On that same wall are designated spaces for plaques recognizing donors, including Claremont Savings Bank, for which the center is named. CSB donated $3 million and most of the land for the $10 million project.

Past the front desk to the left are the two community rooms — which can be turned into one large room if the divider wall is pushed back.

Hausler said the function rooms could be used for a variety of purposes, including business meetings, wedding receptions, parties or dance classes.

There is also a small kitchen off the community rooms where food can be reheated or cold food prepared for catered affairs. Down the hall, just before the entrance to the fitness center, the hall opens up where a wide staircase descends to the full size gymnasium and pool and locker rooms.

The 5,400-square-foot fitness room will have a variety of equipment, Hausler said. “We will have treadmills, cross trainers and other exercise equipment,” he said. “There was a lot of forward thinking that went into the electronics and data hookups. It is a flexible space so we can move things around and stay up with trends.”

Two large windows look out on the elevated indoor track, which will have three lanes and a cushioned surface. “I believe 13 times around is one mile,” Hausler said.

Beneath the track is a full size gymnasium that will serve as a multipurpose room.

“We will be able to run all of our current recreation programs out of here,” Hausler said, adding that lines will be drawn for games such as hopscotch, pickleball and four square. “It will be as multi-functional as we can make it.” The gym will have a rubberized floor surface and a retractable wall divider. The six basketball hoops can be adjusted to a lower height for younger players. A concrete wall on one side will have painted tennis nets for practice.

Just outside the gym, on the ground level, is the pool. There is a function room off the pool deck that can be used for parties.

Hausler said the center’s mechanical components, including heating and electricity, are designed with sensors and timers to be energy efficient.

The flooring, which will include polished concrete in the main traffic areas, has to be completed, along with installation of all ceiling tiles and other work.

With the opening on the horizon, Hausler said, he has been hearing more and more from the public.

“We’ve been getting calls every day. I think people are excited,” Hausler said. The department has been taking applications for memberships and, as of mid-December, had sold 32. A family of four can buy a one-year membership for $300, ($375 for non-residents) that gives complete access to the center.

Three-month passes are available for adults, youths and seniors, and day passes range from $3 for resident youths and seniors and $7 for non-resident adults.

As of now, the center will be open seven days a week.

At the City Council meeting earlier this month, several councilors said they had heard concerns about the rates being too low and not generating enough revenue to help offset the operating costs.

Hausler said the projections for revenue and expenses mean there will be no net increase in the tax dollars needed to subsidize the center. The department recovers about 23 percent of its costs for programs on fees, with the rest coming from tax dollars.

The percentage is projected to rise to about 50 percent with the new center. Councilors said they would trust the estimates but would not rule out immediate changes in the fee structure if the numbers prove inaccurate.

“We will watch closely,” said Councilor Tom Burnham.

“If things are out of whack, we will adjust.” Memberships can be purchased at a discount before Feb. 15. The Park and Recreation Department can be reached at 603-542-7019.

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