Schenectady County

Community center ready for public debut

After eight years of hard work and fundraising, a group of dedicated area residents has transformed
PHOTOGRAPHER:

After eight years of hard work and fundraising, a group of dedicated area residents has transformed a pasture along the Normanskill Creek into a center to serve the rural areas of Schenectady, Albany and Schoharie counties.

The new Duanesburg Area Community Center off Cole Road will open to the public Friday.

The 26,000-square-foot facility features a gymnasium, six-lane swimming pool, fitness center and aerobics room. The new building will also feature meeting spaces the nonprofit organization hopes to use for community events from pancake breakfasts to senior learning classes.

Center officials received a certificate of occupancy this week and began moving equipment and other furniture from their former location off Mott Road. Once the move is completed this week, the center’s 5,000-square-foot facility will be converted into a day care for infants and preschool children.

Patrick Ciraulo, executive director, said, “We’re at the point that we can get the center open and start doing programs.” Once kitchen equipment is installed, Ciraulo said the new building will also host the Duanesburg Senior Dining Program now offered at Our Lady of Fatima Church on School Drive. The meal program is operated by the county Office for the Aging and under contract with Catholic Charities of Schenectady County.

Initial efforts to establish the center were launched in 2000 when a group of parents was searching for a place to host youth basketball. Ciraulo said this group formed the center’s board of directors and began formulating a broader vision, of a facility to serve all segments of the town’s population and even areas around it.

After nearly three years of fundraising, the organization purchased the former site of Fitness Fanatics on Mott Road. Opened in April 2003, the smaller building was able to support many of the programs initially projected, while the organization continued to seek other sources of funding.

In July 2005, the push for an expanded community center received a $250,000 matching grant through the state Environmental Protection Fund. The grant brought the community center fund up to $2.7 million.

The project broke ground in December 2006 after Ken Romanski, a major supporter, donated the property off Cole Road. These efforts were furthered in September when Sen. Hugh Farley helped secure $315,000 through the Office of Small Cities’ Federal Community Development Block Grant Program.

“It really improves the quality of life and that’s one of the things you really want to do for rural areas,” Farley said Tuesday. “It’s an investment in every facet of the community.”

In total, Ciraulo said the project has cost about $5 million, with the new building running nearly $4 million. He said the center is continuing to raise funds and hopes to get the roughly $350,000 remaining through grants and private donations.

The nonprofit organization offers memberships much like the YMCA. Ciraulo expects the center’s more than 800 full-time members will more than triple once the center fully opens later this month.

“With this kind of facility, the phone has been ringing off the hook,” he said.

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