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Dreamy center on the way
The new Ceres Community Center is only 38 percent complete but Doug Lemcke can just about close his eyes and see it all. The Ceres recreation department director sees the youth gathering upstairs, the seniors downstairs. There will be classes for the young and old. Wedding receptions on the weekends. City meetings on Monday nights. All contained within one classy looking building.

Lemcke and city officials may just have to pinch themselves when the facility opens in March.

Lemcke has been working on the new $6.84 million facility for about six years, longer than anyone else at City Hall. It's the taxpayers' project but Lemcke can't help but feel part of it is his baby. Lemcke is sure that the building will be the pride of downtown.

"This is going to be the gem of downtown Ceres," he said.

Construction is zipping along nicely.

"They're going very fast," said construction manager John Springarn of Harris & Associates.

Springarn said crews of eight to 15 from J.L. Bray & Sons Construction are starting work beginning at 5:30 a.m. through the project's summer months.

"It's a small project but it's complicated because of design."

Construction started on Oct. 22, delayed for years by plans that hit snags and turns. There was a lot of decision making to be made with the aid of considerable community input.

A considerable amount of red tape had to be dealt with from the outset. The city purchased the former Ceres Christian Church building for $1 million with the intentions to remodel it into a community center. Those plans fell apart when the building was deemed inadequate for the city's needs. After a series of scoping meetings where details of a rehabilitation were hammered out, the pricetag of the project climbed uncomfortably higher. A renovation would have cost an estimated $3.8 million but would not have been exactly what the city needed. Officials felt that for the money expended, it would be better to build what the community wants into a new structure.

Plans were tweaked after a series of public meetings. The last hiccup was when the city decided to modify the largest meeting room to accommodate City Council meetings.

Since construction started, Lemcke and various community members have chosen all the elements of interior design. By far the centerpiece of the design will be the fluted glass panels that are being manufactured in Germany at a cost of $250,000. And the 7-foot-diameter city logo in floor tiles costing approximately $6,500.

The project's main features are:

• A large assembly room of 5,131 square feet that will be able to handle receptions, community gatherings, social affairs;

• A small assembly room of 3,097 square feet that will double a City Council dais that can be partitioned away out of public view. A second partition can split the room in half for dual use at the same time;

• A conference room that can seat 16 comfortably;

• City recreational staff offices;

• 12-station computer lab for community use with internet access;

• Senior citizens drop-in room where socializing and games can be played;

On the second floor will be:

• A meeting room which could serve as a classroom with modular desks;

• A teen activity room, designed by the Ceres Youth Commission, where students can socialize and study. Lemcke said the room will have a "Starbucks feel" to it;

• Recreational room with maple hardwood floors that will serve as a place to do instructional fitness such as ypga, pilates and gymnastics;

• Arts and crafts room with tile floors and washable walls where kids and adults can learn art mediums such as clay, acrylic, watercolor and oil painting. Lemcke envisions sewing classes and macrame classes being offered in the room.

"These programs could operate on a year round basis here," said Lemcke. "This facility will be serve a range of residents ranging from 4- to 5-year-olds to senior citizens."

Lemcke said the city will be attempting to offset the estimated $100,000 in annual operating costs by renting the facility.

Another challenge will be having enough staff to run the center and all of its recreational programs, said Lemcke. Both recreational coordinators Cambria Pollinger and Traci Dayton-Farris are working on a three-quarter time basis, he said. He noted that there will probably be an opportunity for college internships and senior volunteers at the center.