Collier closer to multipurpose rec center
Lisa Novak spent 15 years as an employee in Mt. Lebanon, working as the facility manager for the community center.
Now Collier's parks and recreations director, Novak believes what she learned in Mt. Lebanon will help as Collier readies for construction of its own community and recreation center.
“You remember the things that worked, and you especially remember the things that did not work,” said Novak, who was hired as Collier's parks and recreation director in February 2012. “So when we had these monthly and biweekly and sometimes weekly meetings with the architect, I was very vocal about things that I saw that we regretted having in Mt. Lebanon (and) things that we wished we could have changed.”
Bids for the construction of Collier's 38,000-square-foot community and recreation center have not yet been awarded, but it's expected to happen this month. Construction is slated to begin in May, with an expected completion time of April 2014.
When the $4 million facility is completed, it will include a gymnasium and walking track, banquet and party rooms, a fitness studio and classrooms for group exercise programs. Those programs currently are held at the township's municipal building.
Novak said the community and recreation center, located at Collier Park on the site of the former Charles E. Kelly Support Facility, will be “truly a multipurpose facility.”
“It's my hope this will be a central gathering place,” she said. “There is no central downtown area, so I'm hoping people will go there to gather, whether their kids are taking a class or they're taking a class or they just want to sit in the lobby and read a book or read the newspaper.”
Novak's knowledge of the workings of such facilities led to her hiring, manager Sal Sirabella said, and it's paid off in planning sessions. For example, she suggested more storage space in the Collier facility because storage was always a problem in Mt. Lebanon.
Additionally, township officials looked at similar facilities in Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair and Pine Township.
Upper St. Clair manager Matt Serakowski said at a March 12 luncheon of municipal managers that the township's recreation center, which opened in 2009, has close to 10,000 members. Membership has grown steadily, particularly among non-residents.“When we first opened, we had an 86 percent resident to non-resident split (in membership),” Serakowski said. “That split as of today is 68 percent resident and 32 percent non-resident.”
Joni Patsko, director of parks and recreation in Pine, estimated the township's community center had about 3,600 members and 1,000 additional people participating in classes. The center, which opened in 2009, is also open to residents and non-residents.
Sirabella said Collier officials paid special attention to Pine's center because the communities are similar in size, as opposed to the larger Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon. Collier took different aspects of various local centers and tailored them to its population, he said.
“It will be unique to Collier,” Sirabella said. “It's not a cookie-cutter (facility) that we copied from other communities. We took the best from several community centers, and with the expertise of our architect and our parks director and the commissioners' goals, kind of blended (it) together. We think we have a nice building.”
When development at the 70-acre former Army site is completed, what was once an “eyesore” will boast both outdoor and indoor options for community recreation, Sirabella said.
“I think the community has really been looking for some sort of a centerpiece for its recreation programs,” Sirabella said.
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.