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More than 1,500 turn out for Sycamore community center grand opening

SYCAMORE – In 2014, the Sycamore Park District shared its vision for the future with the community. Four years later, thanks to the support of Sycamore residents, that dream has become a reality with this weekend’s grand opening of the Park District’s $7.2 million community center on Airport Road.

Saturday’s nasty weather couldn’t keep more than 1,500 residents from packing the new center, which is on a campus that also will include a dog park, sledding hill and splash pad. The 40,000-square-foot community center features a wellness program called Pathway Fitness, a group exercise studio, an elevated walking track, three multipurpose rooms, two full gymnasiums and the Park District’s administrative offices. The splash pad will open next month, while the sled hill and dog park are expected to open next year.

Board of Commissioners member Daryl Graves was greeting people as they entered the building. He said that more than 1,000 people came through the doors in the first hour of the open house.

“We’re elated,” he said. “The community supported our vision and are continuing to support the Park District. It’s awesome to see everyone here today.”

Dan Gibble, executive director of the Park District, said he was overwhelmed by the number of people who supported the Park District by visiting the open house.

“This is a community center for everyone; I love seeing little kids to older adults and everyone in between,” he said. “Our board worked hard to work with the community to give them what they wanted. [The community center] is one of our main goals of our long-range plan. We hope people feel like it was worth the wait.”

Sycamore resident Alex Wenger said that was the case. She said the new facility is one of the nicest community centers she has ever seen.

“Sycamore has grown a lot, and it’s good to have something like this here,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for something like this. I’m looking into renting the multipurpose room for parties, and this is a great location because there’s not as much out this way.”

While waiting in line to buy a membership to Pathway Fitness, Vicki Miller of Sycamore said she was excited about the option of a 24-7 access pass.

“This facility is really nice, and they have some good classes that they’re adding,” she said. “It’s cool to see something like this come to Sycamore.”

Group exercise instructor Catherine Meekins said she’s “super excited” to begin teaching her family fitness classes.

“The building is amazing, and it has a lot to offer,” she said. “I appreciate the philosophy of the staff in that they want to offer what the community wants. I’m excited to get parents and kids to exercise together and have fun.”

Not everyone was there for the fitness classes, however. Rayah Felker, 7, didn’t want to leave the tumbling area, where she was practicing flips with instructor Kaitlyn Rease.

“I saw the gymnastics, so I wanted to try it,” the Southeast Elementary School first-grader said. “This is pretty cool. I like to do tumbling, and I want to come here more.”

Marcy Schwartz of Sycamore also was playing in the tumbling area with her son, Samuel. She said her family was excited to check out the center, and that she plans to rent the volleyball courts.

“The old center didn’t have a lot to offer, and this is definitely a step up,” she said. “We’re also excited about the splash pad.”

John and Linda Toles of Sycamore were most interested in seeing the walking track. The couple said they would use that during the colder months.

“There weren’t many places to exercise, so it’s nice that everything is now under one roof,” Linda Toles said. “Our grandkids are really looking forward to the splash pad.”

For Sycamore Middle School eighth-grader Sophia Binder, however, Saturday was about checking out a new spot where she and her friends could “hang out.”

“This is awesome,” she said. “There’s pickleball, volleyball and a bunch of stuff. I love it here, and I was so excited about this.”

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