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NEWTOWN Community center draws near

September 17, 2018

NEWTOWN - The community center under construction behind Town Hall on the Fairfield Hills campus is nine months away from opening day, but it’s not too soon for Newtowners to start picturing themselves in the new facility.

That’s according to town officials such as Matt Ariniello, the community center director, who plan to update Newtowners during a Tuesday night public meeting about the first of its kind in town.

“We keep telling people that the community center is more than bricks and mortar,” Ariniello said of the 35,000-square-foot building, inspired by a $15 million gift from General Electric following the Sandy Hook massacre. “This is about the lives that are going to be impacted.”

To that end, Ariniello will begin giving tours in October of the building, in the hope of showing as many people as possible its possibilities.

“Our multipurpose space will be able to house 250 people, and we’ll have a recreational activity pool and a six-lane lap pool, and a lot of other program space available,” Ariniello said. “We’ll also have central gathering spaces for residents for social interaction.”

Newtowners who sign up for the Wednesday morning tours will have to use their imagination, since all there is to the community center today is the walls and the rough roof work. Call the Recreation Department at 203-270-4340 for details.

At the same time, parallel construction work is on schedule for a $3 million senior center wing, attached to the community center, which will share building resources but have its own facilities and staff.

The construction progress comes five years after GE surprised a devastated Newtown with a $15 million gift to be spent on something for the whole town, which did not already exist.

The community center is conceived to be more than a building. Similar to the new Sandy Hook School, which opened in 2016, and plans for the Sandy Hook memorial, the hope is that the community center will be a place where Newtown can find new sources of healing and recover its hope.

“I think we will be well-positioned by the time the community center opens to meet the expectations of a center that speaks to all demographics of the community,” said Dan Rosenthal, Newtown’s first selectman. “I do think they will hit the ball out of the park when it opens.”

The goal is to have the building sealed before cold weather sets in, so workers can continue the interior construction during winter, Rosenthal said.

The community center and the senior center are part of a larger vision for the town’s 185-acre Fairfield Hills campus to become the cultural, civic and commercial center of town.

Newtowners can receive updates about the construction time table and the latest details about programs being developed at a 7:30 p.m. Community Center Committee meeting on Tuesday at 3 Main St.

“This community center is another patch in the quilt of our town,” Ariniello said.

rryser@newstimes.com 203-731-3342

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