It’s been years in coming, but a date has been set for groundbreaking on a new recreation facility for Kent County.
The shovels are tentatively scheduled to hit the dirt Saturday, Oct. 25, said Keith Mumford, Kent County’s director of community services
The Kent County Recreation Center, which is being built in conjunction with the Greater Dover Boys & Girls Club, will be built on the former Kesselring Farm, off New Burton Road, just north of the Wyoming town limits.
“This has been a dream of ours for 20 years,” Mumford said. “We’re finally realizing it.”
The need for a permanent recreational facility has become increasingly clear as Kent County’s population has expanded, he added.
“We’ve had to beg and borrow just about any place we can,” Mumford said.
Coincidentally, the Boys & Girls Club, operating out of a building on Simon Circle, is in a similar bind for space.
“We’ve probably been looking for a new site for about 15 years, but really got started about seven or eight years ago,” said Delaware Boys & Girls Club board member Scott Brown.
At first the directors considered Dover’s Schutte Park, but a presentation to Levy Court changed that idea.
“Afterward, they pulled us aside and said they’d been thinking of building a rec center and it didn’t make sense for us both to be doing the same thing,” Brown said.
‘The possibilities are endless’
The combined building will be split into two sections, with both using a common entrance.
The Kent County side is basically a large gymnasium primarily for basketball and volleyball, Mumford said.
“We also can configure it for pickleball, youth tennis, girls’ indoor field hockey and indoor lacrosse and soccer,” he said. “The possibilities are endless.”
The Boys & Girls Club will feature a game and activity room, a computer and teen room and five classrooms for the club’s afterschool activities. Children will have access to the gymnasium when not in use for county-sponsored activities.
The 62,000-square-foot building sits on 16 acres, including a parking lot, maintenance building and a turfed, multi-purpose field. A 200-seat set of bleachers, restrooms and a concession stand also are planned.
The remainder of the Kesselring Farm, approximately 37 acres, has been set aside for future use as softball fields or for expansion of the recreation center itself.
The center will be built of pre-engineered steel beams on a concrete slab, with the walls constructed of cement block, Mumford said. Parts of the exterior will be faced in brick for aesthetic reasons, with frosted windows above to allow natural light.
The building was designed by the Becker Morgan Group architectural firm; the EDiS Company of Wilmington will build the recreation center, while Lighthouse Construction of Magnolia will construct the Boys & Girls Club.
“Cooperation between them has been good,” Brown said. “The people heading up the firms are very passionate about it and they’ve all come together and said they’re going to make this thing the best they can.”
Initially, the county had planned a larger, 54,000 square-foot facility to include an indoor turf field, but the $14 million projected cost was too high.
The recreation center has been budgeted at approximately $9 million to $10 million, although a firm figure won’t be known until early September when initial designs are approved.
Approximately $3.2 million in county funds, accumulated over the years, have been earmarked for this project, Mumford said. The remainder will be provided from cash reserves, a bond sale or a combination of both.
A final design and budget should be set by Nov. 25.
Levy Court commissioners were told Tuesday night construction of the Boys & Girls Club portion will begin in early January, depending on weather conditions, and should be wrapped up by July 23. Work on the Kent County side of the project will start in early April and be completed by next November.
Most of the funding for the Boys & Girls Club has come from a statewide capital campaign that aims to raise approximately $10 million, Brown said, although some of the money is targeted for other projects throughout Delaware.
Although funding sources for the two sections of the building are different, the county and Boys & Girls Club will share costs for site work, common areas and the parking lot.
The Boys & Girls Club plans to vacate its Simon Circle building once the new center is finished, Brown said.