MYAKKA CITY — Precisely at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, just as the groundbreaking for the 4,450-square-foot Myakka Community Center was supposed to begin, the rain began.
But it let up just enough to get a few shovels in the ground, and did nothing to take the smiles off the faces of folks who have fought for decades for a community center in Myakka.
If all goes as scheduled, the new facility with its two large multi-purpose rooms, three classrooms, warming kitchen, media room and more will be ready by Christmas.
“It’s been a long time coming. We can’t wait to get the building open,” said Patti McGavic, board chair for the Myakka Community Center.
Ginki Miller, the former executive director of the center, was there, too.
“We started working on this in 1993,” Miller said, all smiles.
Pepper Sellars, the current executive director, showed up in a nice black dress and dress shoes, but quickly changed into rubber boots with the approach of rain.
“The staff and the board are excited for our community,” Sellars said. The community center now operates out of a double-wide portable building on the site.
Architect Jonathan Park explained that the new building was designed to be welcoming to the community with its flagpole and courtyard out front, framed by curving benches that seemed to offer an embrace to all who arrived there.
But it was also designed to be a companion building to the 1914 schoolhouse next door, to have a dignified presence in the community, and to ensure the safety of all who use the building, particularly the children.
Zirkelbach Construction hopes to begin moving earth at the site at 10092 Wauchula Road next week when the soggy ground should be a little drier.
Jim Pastor, executive vice president of Zirkelbach, said the site will be elevated so the building stays high and dry during rain storms.
Manatee County Commissioners approved spending $550,000 to design and build a community center for Myakka City 11 months ago.
Darin Cushing, county project manager, said the center will be a showcase for the community.
The center is expected to host children’s summer camp, events for seniors, community gatherings and more. A completion date for occupancy of the historic 1914 school house, which community members have been working to save and restore since the early 1990s, remains uncertain.
Originally, the community center was envisioned as being located insid the historic school house, but the uncertainty about its completion date led community leaders to look for a new approach.
In July 2009, the community center board asked the county to build a separate community center.
Thursday, Nancy Ness, vice president of the community center board, seemed to speak for all who attended the groundbreaking: “I am thrilled. I’m very happy.”