Bristol’s Community Center will feature exercise gym, programs

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Constructing a pool, or two, at the new community center is not just a “pipe dream” of Parks and Recreation Director Walter Burke.

“The pool issue…there is so much research to do, and questions to be answered,” said Mr. Burke to a crowd of 20 or so residents during a special town council meeting Tuesday night.

“There has to be a viability (for a pool) within the Town of Bristol. It has to have real support of the community, and orchestrated by the community. No one will do anything unless it’s orchestrated by the community.”

Mr. Burke presented his multi-year plan of use for the community center, located on Asylum Road near the Bristol Town Beach Complex. The town acquired the building, known as Quinta-Gamelin Army Reserve, in August, the result of the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission decision. The building was transferred to the town at no cost.

With a pool, the town’s insurance premium would increase, said Town Treasurer Julie Goucher. The amount is uncertain, however.

“I believe that pools can make money,” said Mr. Burke. “If we had a lap pool decent enough for school tournaments, that would be a source of revenue. Heated therapy pools built correctly with the right equipment could be rented out to a lot of different organizations.”

Mr. Burke said that within a year of occupancy, he plans to have a capital campaign set up that would solicit funds for the construction of a pool. Should the town be successful with its installation, it may warrant membership fees to maintain, he added.

The success of the community center depends on private-public partnerships, he said, highlighting fitness trainers who may offer classes at the center while working full-time for a private gym. There are plans to purchase new fitness equipment for the center’s gym.

Currently, the Community Center needs to an upgrade to its fire alarm system, at a cost of $50,000. Once complete, the town can issue a certificate of occupancy, and the public can begin to use the building.

In the future, Mr. Burke is considering utilizing solar power or geo-thermal energy to harness eco-friendly power alternatives, eventually bringing down its cost to operate substantially. Despite being larger than the current community center (the armory downtown), the Quinta Gamelin building is well-insulated and costs to operate the building “would be a wash,” at $29,600 per year – the same as the armory.

There is also a full-service kitchen and Mr. Burke plans to install a generator, enabling the community center to serve as an emergency shelter for the town in the event of a disaster.

Another public-private partnership Mr. Burke highlighted was that between the town and the North American Family Institute (NAFI). The organization would hold office space in the center, and would create programs centered around Bristol’s teens’ needs.

“This community center is not just for the youth, it’s for everyone,” said Mr. Burke. “We’re going to have adult programming, senior programming, teen, youth and preschool. This is really going to be second-to-none in the state.”

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