Big changes for Stivers Center

If all goes as planned, Union College will become the new owner of the Stivers Aquatic and Wellness Center on Thursday, March 22.

What are Union’s plans for the facility? “The first thing we are going to do, once we take ownership of the Center, is to start the application process for a construction loan,” announced Union College President Dr. Marcia Hawkins.  “We think there needs to be another component of the Center. We want it to be the regional center for health and learning… and so we will implement plans for a 10,000 square foot expansion.” While some details in the plan may change, basically, Hawkins envisions “There will be a full kitchen, classrooms, and a space to accommodate up to 300 people.”

Shortly before noon Tuesday, Union College closed on a $750,000.00 USDA loan. 48 hours later, Thursday afternoon, March 22, the federal funds should arrive in Union’s bank account, and Hawkins says, the college plans to sign a purchase agreement with the Stivers Center Board of Directors to become the new owner of the $7 million facility. US Bank and Community Ventures Corporation are overseeing the closing on Thursday, and are in the process of securing signatures for all the documents as the Mountain Advocate went to press.

When will it be open again to the public?  “Not sure,” Hawkins answered. There was a sprinkler malfunction that caused some electrical damage to the Center. The insurance company’s contractor has to complete those repairs. Then, Hawkins says Union wants to fix up and repair a few other minor things, and do some cosmetic improvements like painting. Then, the Center will be reopened to the public. She indicated it should only be a few weeks at most.

When it does reopen, Hawkins assured, all existing memberships will be extended to compensate members for whatever time the Center is closed. She advised no price increases or change in hours are planned. “We will be asking for community input – what can we do to make it better?” Hawkins said.

Who’s going to manage the center?

President Hawkins outlined a complete management plan and structure for operating the center.  The “initial” staffing plan lists Katrina Haines as the new Executive Director. Haines will have three other members on her center management team. The Director of Operations for the center will be the Union College swim coach Raffael “Hoffa” Forti. Hawkins noted Forti is “operating the pumps and equipment, and monitoring the chemicals,” at the request of the Stivers Center Board. He is already working now to keep the center’s pool functional and in good condition. Kayla Horn, and Mary Thompson will round out the management team for the center. Horn will oversee the Boys and Girls Club programs, and Thompson the community outreach activities. Hawkins noted the Boys and Girls Club is already up and running, and it too will expand once they can move activities into the center. 

Hawkins also announced a new twist. “The college’s plans are that there will be a board of visitors” associated with the Center as well. The purpose of this group is to help be “the voice of the people and voice of the center,” she said.