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Date of Issue: November 09, 2006

Community Center plans groundbreaking ceremony

The season to be jolly comes a few weeks early for supporters of the Anna Maria Island Community Center.

A groundbreaking ceremony planned for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 16 will celebrate the multi-million dollar construction of a new and expanded Center. And that has Center staff smiling.

"It's been a long, long process," said an ebullient Scott Dell, assistant executive director for the Center. "We started this process back in the year 2000. So we've had a little over six years of planning this thing out and now it's reality. This puts a smile on my face."

"This will be a great day for all of us as we see this long-awaited project move forward and join together with those who helped make it a reality," Pierrette Kelly, the Center's executive director, said in a news release.

Work began around Labor Day at the Center site, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

"That's when the demolition started," Dell said.

Last week, workers started forming the foundation. This week, the plans call for pouring concrete. By mid-November, the underground utilities should be in place, Dell said.

Plans for the ceremony, a communitywide event, include a formal presentation, dignitaries, shovels, hardhats and light refreshments.

Organizers decided to hold the ceremony in mid-November so more supporters of the construction project could attend.

"What we did was allow some room for our Northern friends to get back, people who have been crucial to this project," Dell said. "That's really the biggest reason for the delay. It is everybody's Community Center."

Tamara Belle, a seasonal resident who lives nearby, said she's pleased about the wait.

"People are just getting in and this event will be like a homecoming," said Belle, of Lansing, Mich. "It means a lot to us snowbirds that they waited. We love the community too."

Dell said some of the seasonal residents now returning aren't familiar with how the Center has adapted to operating for months without a permanent building.

"A lot of people that are coming back, we're finding they don't know where the Center is located and if we are doing programs," Dell said.

Center services are being coordinated from an office trailer at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, until the new building opens.

The earliest the new Center, projected to cost $4.1 million to $4.8 million, might be complete is June 7, said Dell. The contracted deadline is Sept. 1.

"We're hoping for somewhere in the middle, being realistic," he said. "We'll be in the building by summer-time next year."

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