Chelsea Community Center holds soft opening

Published 12:14 pm Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven, right, shows visitors around the new Chelsea Community Center off Shelby County 47 during a soft opening Oct. 28. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven, right, shows visitors the senior wing at the new Chelsea Community Center off Shelby County 47 during a soft opening Oct. 28. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)


CHELSEA – The new Chelsea Community Center on Shelby County 47 is now open and ready for residents to use.

Mayor Earl Niven greeted dozens of visitors and showed them around the facility during a soft opening Oct. 28.

“We just opened up to let people start filtering in,” Niven said. “They can use it right now. They could walk, they can use the equipment right now, and we want them to. The way they’ve been coming in has been great for that today.”

Niven said the facility’s grand opening is scheduled to take place in December, after the final details of the project, including telephone line installation, landscaping and obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy, are in place.

“I’ll be here every day,” Chelsea resident Glenn Woods told Niven after walking into the exercise room lined with different types of cardio machines and equipment. “Y’all did a great job on building this place. It’s beautiful.”

Cecile Lemley of Chelsea said she heard an announcement about the soft opening at her church, Liberty Baptist Church, and decided to visit.

“This is very nice,” Lemley said of the facility. “I’m proud of it.”

Columbiana resident Gay Fowler described the facility as “lovely.”

“I had to come see this beautiful center,” Fowler said. “I wanted to see how lucky we are to have this. It’s just wonderful.”

The nearly $3.6 million project started in May 2014 and was scheduled for completion this summer until unexpected delays surfaced.

The 30,000-square-foot facility includes a gymnasium with a 300-person seating capacity and an overhead walking track.

The center will provide basketballs to use in the gym.

“Youth will be allowed to use it one night a week,” Niven said of the gym, which is primarily available to community groups and residents. “I want it used by all people.”

The gym features a scoreboard and sound system.

“We’ve got a sound system that you would not believe,” Niven said. “The sound is crystal clear.”

All visitors at the community center must sign in at the front desk before going to a specific area.

Niven said 12 security cameras will be installed inside and outside of the facility.

The facility also features senior wing with a large partitioned room and a warming kitchen; meeting and group event rooms; a reception area and director’s office; and outdoor patio and recreation areas.

Niven said the county has agreed to help the city build a sand volleyball court and fenced-in area for horseshoes in the outdoor space behind the building.

“We wanted it more than just an indoor recreational center,” he added.

“I can see some horseshoe games coming up, Jim,” Chelsea resident Bill Brown said to Jim Leslie during their tour.

A 38-foot-by-40-foot multipurpose room will be available to rent for private events for $50 an hour, and the senior room and kitchen can be rented for $75 an hour.

Niven said city officials haven’t decided whether a family membership fee will be required in the future to help offset operational expenses, but if so, the fee would be no more than $100 per family.

Also, no fees currently exist for senior adults, gym use and indoor track use.

The center will not have a nursery now due to regulations, Niven said.

Jeff Jones is the full-time community center manager.

The center is open Monday–Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.

Information about the center and its activities will be available soon on the city’s website,

“We want it used,” Niven said. “I have always had a soft spot for senior adults and children. Seniors are the ones that got us where we are today, and we need to show respect for them before it’s too late.”