SCC plans major expansion

SALEM – A $3 million expansion project for the Salem Community Center will give members more space and fill a need for additional competitive sport space, including an indoor running track for meets.

“This is an ongoing commitment to the community to provide for the citizens facilities that they never would have had without the philanthropic people who have left money to be used for specific projects like this,” Salem Community Foundation President John Tonti said.

Tonti and Salem Community Center Executive Director Heather Young explained the details of the project Wednesday and what the new facility will mean for the members, area athletes and the community overall.

“We have to do something to provide members access to all the facilities and still be able to do programming for competitive recreation,” Tonti said.

Plans call for construction of a 27,000-square-foot multiplex facility to the south of the current building to house two high school regulation size full basketball courts (four half courts/12 hoops), which can also be used for up to four volleyball courts, and a four lane 160 meter spikable surface running track which meets requirements of the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches as a qualifying facility for the Indoor State Meet. The track will also include six 60 meter spikable surface straights.

Other amenities will include a drop down batting cage with “L” screens, spectator space, support services, a separate driveway and parking with 150 spaces and a sidewalk connecting the existing SCC with the new separate building.

The project received final approval Tuesday, with hopes to break ground in August and have the building under roof by December. Tonti said it’s an aggressive schedule with a 10-month construction period. The expectation is to have a rollout period with some programming in the fall of 2015 and have the facility fully operational by January 2016. Payto Architects of Cleveland will design the project and Stitle Construction of Salem will serve as the general contractor. Both have been involved with the SCC since day one.

This will be the second major expansion of the SCC which first opened in 2002. The Center Circle facilities which included another gym and an indoor soccer field were added in 2007.

Talk about expanding again started in the fall of 2012 as a means to address concerns about space due to growing membership and programming. About a year ago, the talks became more serious and a strategic planning committee of SCC board members and strategic staff looked at the situation, put together some goals and found ways to repurpose some space.

Young said memberships now stand at 6,600 and that’s not including day passes or people coming into the building for programming, such as basketball games or soccer games or other events. She said they issued 550 day passes in March alone and the building itself has more people coming through the doors.

According to a history of how the project came to be, the SCC lost $20,000 of possible rental income this winter because there was no space available, parking has been at a premium and there have been complaints from members about not being able to use some areas due to space not being available.

Young and Tonti said the new construction will free up the SCC for its members, address parking issues, and create more opportunity for competitive sports, all while employing more people and bringing more visitors into Salem who will need a place to eat, buy gas, shop and possibly stay overnight.

“This is something vital to the whole of Salem and also falls out to the 10-mile radius,” Tonti said, noting the SCC serves more than just the city residents, but also those in the surrounding area.

The indoor track will be something new for the area and considering the history of the Salem area when it comes to track and cross country, there’s a need. Plans call for a series of track meets and the formation of a track club, with the idea that all ages can participate.

Another idea is the formation of an AAU basketball program and the hosting of AAU basketball tournaments, along with volleyball tournaments for Junior Olympic and younger ages. Besides tournaments, the facility could be used for practices and rentals. There will be more opportunity for programming for baseball and softball and miscellaneous programs for other sports besides the core of basketball, volleyball and track.

A document detailing the project noted the new facility will add new revenue and expand existing revenue for the SCC, expand opportunities for Salem area athletes of all ages, bring thousands of people to Salem for events (some from significant distances), increase member access to current facilities while not impacting membership rates and address space needs for local school athletic teams.

The cost of construction will be covered by Salem Community Foundation funds, with Tonti stressing that “this is not going to come out of the members’ pockets.” A non-profit, the SCC isn’t supported by any tax money and actually pays in excess of $120,000 in real estate taxes for the property.

A separate driveway will be constructed off of North Ellsworth Avenue about five houses down from the current driveway for access to the new facility on land the SCC already owns. Trees which already form a buffer between SCC and neighboring properties will remain, with additional trees and landscaping added. Young said they’re committed to maintaining boundaries for the neighbors. She also said they’ve already received the necessary approvals from the city.

“We will maintain the beautification of the property,” she said.

In separate projects, the fitness floor will be expanded this summer by removing a couple of walls and taking out the upper observation area in the natatorium, increasing the fitness floor space by 1,000 square feet. The decking of the pool will also be redone, requiring the pool to close from Aug. 4 to Sept. 1. The entire SCC will close for a week near the end of August to finish up those projects.