Recreation center returns to northwest neighborhood in Cedar Rapids

Public open house is 3-6 p.m. Thursday at Northwest Recreation Center

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The final flood recovery piece has quietly opened on Cedar Rapids northwest side.

The Northwest Recreation Center replaces the old Time Check Recreation Center, which was lost in the 2008 flood. Neighbors and officials from the city and schools say its return makes it easier for those in the area to participate in activities.

“I think it has been missed,” said Mel Pexa, 90, who lives across the street from the new facility. “You can tell by the way you see kids just roaming around during the day in the summer time.”

The Northwest Recreation Center, 1340 11th St. NW, adjacent Harrison Elementary, opened earlier this month as city staff relocated from the Ambroz Recreation Center on Mount Vernon Road NE. A public open house is slated from 3-6 p.m. on Thursday.

The doors are open and the center is staffed, but some programming and services are still ramping up. Fall offerings should be in full swing at the new center by mid-September, said Gail Loskill, a city spokeswoman.

Staff members from Cedar Rapids Billiards were assembling a new pool table on Thursday to go with foosball and ping pong tables in an activities room, which is also the main foyer of the new 16,000-square-foot facility.

The building has a 150-person community meeting room, a smaller meeting room, a catering kitchen, a computer station and a full-size gymnasium with room for two basketball courts and three volleyball courts. Dividers allow the rooms to be split for multiple activities.

Birthday parties, baby showers, classes, neighborhood meetings and kid play time are all ideal fits for the space, Loskill said. Plus, the new center is a more versatile space than the old Time Check and Ambroz centers, she added.

“This space allows us to do a lot more,” she said.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Students from Harrison are to use the recreation center for their physical education classroom. A private hallway from the school to the gym with bathrooms provides separation between the students and general public, Loskill said.

“It will be a great learning space for our students at Harrison,” Cedar Rapids School District Superintendent Brad Buck said. “It’s a great big gym and a conference space we could use for professional development for our staff. And, it’s a touch point for people in the community.”

The new gym is much bigger with more opportunities compared to the cramped first floor gym Harrison students had been using, Buck said. And, the uptick in enrollment — 346 in 2014 to 372 in 2016 — is a sign the area is coming back and the new center is an exciting addition, he said.

While Ambroz mainly served as a space for scheduled programs, the Northwest center is to see classes and programming, but also be open for drop-ins, unless it’s booked, Loskill said.

Remaining staff are to move out of Ambroz for good in October and then that building is to be secured for winter, said Sven Leff, city parks and recreation director. City officials hope to have Ambroz — a former school building — back in use by June, but it’s up in the air whether it remains a city property or is sold to a private party, he said.

“We are still figuring out its next use,” Leff said. “We want to put it back into service somehow.”

The Northwest Recreation Center is the last Federal Emergency Management Agency-funded replacement project stemming from the 2008 flood. The building with design and engineering cost $4.3 million, of which FEMA covered $2.2 million, the school district paid $500,000, and the city picked up the remainder.

Cedar Rapids Noon Lions Club and the Lions Club International District 9EC donated $22,000 to furnish the kitchen and gymnasium.

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