Chamberlain fills downtown hole
By Jessica Giard
For The Daily Republic
CHAMBERLAIN — Chamberlain’s downtown community center looks much like the old city hall — except it’s shorter, wider, newer and has more usable space.
The new center, which opened Monday, faced a string of delays over the last two months, on top of no progress over the winter after a misunderstanding in the contract. The domino effect put the center about five months past the original completion date of May 31.
“I’ll feel a lot better when they hand me the keys,” Greg Powell, Chamberlain city engineer, said last week.
The 13,000-square-foot center fills a hole left by the May 2012 demolition of the 87-year-old City Hall, which was central to the community until it closed 10 years ago. The new building also speaks to the town’s active Main Street, says city commissioner Chad Mutziger.
“Just go up and down. We don’t have many open slots on Main Street,” he said. “It will be nice to have that youthful energy on Main Street.”
Powell believes the center will plug a gap in the community’s need for additional meeting and recreation space.
The center complements the community’s existing facilities, including the Oacoma Community Center and National Guard Armory.
The city’s recreation coordinator, a position created in part to manage the center, is already juggling schedule conflicts before the doors officially open.
“It’s kind of nice to have the problem,” Powell said. “We have our own building to use. I’m already seeing that will make life easier.”
The city still has some work to do, including the installation of bleachers, moving in offices and setting rental rates.
The center features a 6,400-square-foot event hall; a 1,600-square-foot community room and adjoining kitchen; office space for the city recreation coordinator, the Prairie Futures education support program, and three offices for the economic development corporation and the chamber of commerce.
Ron LaMie, new as the city’s recreation coordinator, will be the only city employee in the building. The others — the city engineer, finance office and police department — will stay in the city offices on North Main Street, about four blocks north of downtown.
Powell said Lake Francis Case Development and the chamber of commerce have not confirmed a move to the community center.
“They’ve certainly indicated an interest,” he said.
The city of Chamberlain funded construction through a combination of grants and cash on hand — a $495,949 Community Development Block Grant, a $250,000 Barger Foundation grant and $1.091 million in city funds. Puetz Corp, of Mitchell, managed the $1.8 million project.
The center’s brick facade is reminiscent of the former city hall, though the inside offers what city hall couldn’t: more clean, usable space and handicap accessibility.
“I’m really pleased with the look of it,” Mutziger said. “Once you open the doors, you see it’s not the old city hall.”
Powell expects the center will do more than provide a place for youth basketball practices and coed volleyball. He is betting on bringing more people through downtown Chamberlain.
“Our goal of constructing a facility that will bring people downtown, I think that’s going to happen,” he said. “Every time I bring them down Main Street one more time, it gives our businesses one more opportunity.