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A real community center
Lathrop breaking ground on $5.8M complex in 2013
A rendering of the Lathrop community center breaking ground in 2013

LATHROP - There is no question that Lathrop’s new $5.8 million community center breaking ground in 2013 on Spartan Way at Golden Valley Parkway near Lathrop High is indeed a community center.

The community center - that includes a teen center and library - was what the community made clear they wanted. It was essentially designed using input gleaned from 70 community meetings. And when the doors finally open the community will play a key role in running it.

Lathrop is marrying a $5 million Proposition 84 state parks and recreation bond grant with $800,000 in growth fees to build the initial 8,300-square-foot phase being built on 6.8 acres. It will also include a skate park, outdoor art courtyard playground, outdoor amphitheatre seating around 100 along with an acoustical stage, as well as a parkour course that emphasizes endurance and strength training.

“This is a community center that the community designed,” noted Mary Grace Houlihan, Lathrop’s principal engineer that was one of the staff members playing key supporting roles in securing the grant.

The design blends function and aesthetics while driven by the goal of keeping ongoing maintenance and operational costs such as staffing and energy use as low as possible to minimize impacts on the city’s general fund.

The retro exterior design employs metal, glass and stucco. There is a large outside seating area with seating under shade.

The interior is designed so one staff member working in the reception area has clear visual lines to the library, multipurpose room, youth/teen lounge, and a computer lab wired to accommodate at least 30 computer stations. There is also a classroom. The multipurpose room will have a moveable divider that will enable the space to the split in half when needed.

To top it off, a large garage-style roll up door that blends in with the retro design opens to the outside to create direct access to the skate park and future bocce courts.

Indoor, outdoor events can be seamless

Houlihan noted that will allow for events such as a skateboard festival to make seamless use the outside and indoor facilities.

“Kudos to staff and the state for providing the fund… without their efforts this wouldn’t have been possible,” noted Lathrop Mayor Chaka Santos. “It is nice that this project will bring the teens and community together in a positive note. It is great to see everyone working as a team. if we take the ‘M’ in “ME” (and) turn it upside down you get a ‘W’ as in ‘we’.”

Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal echoed Santos’ sentiments.

“This is good news for our teenagers,” Dhaliwal said. “I’m looking forward to the ground breaking of this new facility.”

If all goes well, groundbreaking will take place in early 2013. Construction will take 12 to 15 months to complete.

Interim City Manager Stephen Salvatore noted that the community center is different than bridges, streets, and other infrastructure the city builds. While all of that is necessary, Salvatore noted, the community center is something that people wanted to improve the quality of life in the community.

“Local government is judged by the quality of services we provide our residents,” added Councilwoman Martha Salcedo. “This funding will allow us to invest in a facility for our youth; our most precious resource.”

Art emphasize inside and outside of center

Houlihan said teens participating in the design process got into details such as texturing on the skate park as well as how art would be used inside and outside the building.

“Art is very important to them,” Houlihan said.

A contest will be conducted to generate entries for designs for use in the outdoor art area. The entries selected will be cast and put in place as a permanent display. That is in addition to revolving art areas inside the center.

“It goes to show if a community get behind a project and supports it the way Lathrop has, then in turn the community will get rewarded,” said Councilman Omar Ornelas of the grant. “Not only are we being rewarded with this $5 million dollar grant but with a community complex for everybody.”

As a teen, Ornelas participated extensively in workshops and planning session for the community center.

The Lathrop Youth Advisory Commission is planning to have a brick donor program to raise money for extras such as gaming devices for the computer lab that aren’t included in the budget.

The site is currently on Lathrop Road but by the time ground breaks it will have been renamed Spartan Way.

The efforts of Houlihan and budget analyst Christine Eichblatt to tailor the application to meet the grant criteria is credited with Lathrop succeeding in obtaining second-round funding. One change was switching from the original site on Sixth Street to the Spartan Way location. The Lathrop teen/youth center was one of 64 projects selected from 400 competing applications submitted statewide.

The site is an underserved area when it comes to community facilities. It is also centrally located to four school campuses that have the youth the teen center is designed to serve. It is 0.25 miles from Lathrop High, 1.25 miles from Widmer School, 1.1 miles from Lathrop School, and 1.75 miles from Mossdale School.

While it is designed primary as a teen/youth center, the facility will be used by other age groups as well.

In addition, the community will decide what programs are offered and will play a key role in implementing them.

The facility is expected to provide a big boost for the community in providing a place for teens and youth to safely hang out as well as to address unmet recreation needs.

The Scott Brooks Community Gym at Valverde Park is the only current municipal facility for general community use.

“The grant could not have come at a better time than now,” Vice Mayor Chris Mateo said. “Thanks to all of the staff that was involved in making this happen. (It is) a job well done.”