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Groton opens new communtiy center at former Fitch Middle School

November 22, 2018

Groton — A larger space, with green and blue walls and rooms decorated with murals, is now home to the Parks and Recreation Department’s programs.

With fall programs underway, the Parks and Recreation Department held a grand opening for the new Groton Community Center at the former Fitch Middle School earlier this month, after months of work to convert middle school classrooms into recreational spaces.

Jerry Lokken, Manager of Recreation Services for Parks and Recreation, said the space stands in the center of town and is larger than the William Seely School, which formerly housed the department’s programs.

With the center located near Groton Public Library, Groton Senior Center, Poquonnock Plains Park, Tercentennial Legacy Playground, Sutton Park and the skate park, the area is becoming the “recreational hub” of Groton, said Parks and Recreation Director Mark Berry.

Lokken said many studies and plans of economic development have called for a community center in town, and the move to the former Fitch Middle School is a step in that direction. The part of the building being used by Parks and Recreation is sealed off from unused parts.

Berry said Parks and Recreation hopes in the future to locate its offices in the building, which would be efficient and may allow more programming and open use of the building for the community.

The new community center features murals and artwork by Felicia Stevens, owner of The Drunken Palette in New London, who volunteered her time. Stevens said she wanted to liven up the place and make it more family-friendly and inviting. She designed and painted artwork according to the purpose of each room.

The dance room has a positive message — “DANCE Like Nobody’s Watching” painted in green against a yellow backdrop — and the music room’s giant mural, with a microphone and music notes, is meant to help people enjoy creating music.

Some rooms are close to their original purposes, such as the music room, which is being used for drumming classes. Others have been converted to serve new capacities.

The dance studio is the former woodshop, for example, and the cafeteria now has gym mats, a balance beam and other equipment for gymnastics classes, preschool play programs and karate.

As preschool aged children and their parents last week filed into the room for a gymnastics class, Kim Detuzzi, owner of ABC’s Gymnastics Stars, said she loves the space.

“It’s a wonderful asset to this gymnastics program,” she said. “They have plenty of room to learn their forward rolls, their backward rolls, their cartwheels.”

A boxing area, art room, a quiet room for writing programs, a room with foosball and Ping Pong tables, and a room that can be rented out for birthday parties are among other features.

Lokken said the move also made sense because of the town’s interest in marketing the former William Seely School property.

The town spent 350,000 on fire suppression and accessibility in fiscal year 2017, Lokken said. Public Works and Parks and Recreation funded some small projects, including removing unused equipment, painting and minor electrical jobs. Volunteers also pitched in.

Separate from the project, Parks and Recreation refinished the floor in the gym in the building the department has used for years and added pickleball court lines about 16 months ago, Berry and Lokken said.

Dominick Bassi, a community volunteer who leads the pickleball program, said the center is wonderful for the community. 

“It’s located in the center of town, basically, so it’s just a great facility that has all sorts of rooms,” he said. “It’s very pleasing to the eye as opposed to the old battleship gray schools that one can remember.”

“For something that’s just at its inception, it’s starting to take off. There are so many different programs that are coming in,” Bassi added. “It’s just wonderful to see.”

k.drelich@theday.com 

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