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Ground breaking tonight on new rec center

| Thursday, July 17, 2003

No wonder Elaine Biglar is anxious for Peters' new community center to take shape.

She now packs about 20 people into the township's cramped community room on East McMurray Road for her Pilates and seniors' exercise classes. Expanding classes isn't an option, nor is offering more classes, since plenty of other organizations vie for time in the community room.

Space no longer will be at a premium when the $5.2 million community center opens in Peterswood Park. The facility will feature two full-size gymnasiums, an indoor walking track, three aerobics or meeting rooms and a ball field and outdoor skateboard park.

"We really are looking forward to the center, because it will make it easier for us to expand our programs," Biglar said.

Ground is to be broken at 6 tonight, and the 38,000-square-foot building is to open July 2004.

Construction crews last week began grading the site off Meredith Drive in the park.

"It will give us the ability to get more practices and games in, and we will have the ability to expand our social activities," municipal Manager Mike Silvestri said.

Peters already boasts a strong recreation program. A soccer association includes 1,163 players while a baseball association includes 815. There are also basketball, lacrosse, football, wrestling and tennis programs.

The ball field at the new center will make it possible for 14 more softball or baseball games to be played each week, parks and recreation director Ed Figas said. There will be basketball, volleyball and fitness programs, and skateboarders will have a place to go.

Figas said the municipality might add team play to its volleyball program.

"We plan to offer something more competitive," he said.

Hours are expected to be from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, plus weekend hours, which haven't yet been set, Figas said. Hours probably will be cut back in the summer.

While organized youth sports are limited to Peters residents, who will be given priority for classes, anyone will be able to use the indoor walking track and other facilities in the center, Figas said. No plans have been set to charge admission or membership fees.

Tai Chi, martial arts, music and art classes also could be offered at the center, Figas and Silvestri said. And teenagers could gather there once a month for activities and dancing, which now are offered at the middle school.

"I'm hoping we'll have more of those types of offerings," Silvestri said.

Annual events, such as the Haunted Trail, Frosty's Fun House and the Easter egg hunt, now will be at the center, Figas said.

Figas said the municipality will have to hire part-time workers to staff the center in the evenings. Because of the building's design, he said, only one worker at a time will be needed to run it.

Peters received a $750,000 state grant and floated a bond issue for $5 million to build the center. No tax increase is expected, and council will determine later how to use the roughly $550,000 not specifically earmarked for construction.

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