For the first time, Lincoln residents saw what the new Air Park Rec Center/Williams Branch Library is going to look like at an open house.
Residents gathered at the over 65-year-old Air Park Rec Center on Thursday, Oct. 21 to view images of the proposed Air Park Rec Center and Williams Branch Library. The new facility will replace the current Air Park Rec Center located off of 46th street in Lincoln.
Lincoln Parks and Recreation and Lincoln City Libraries hosted the event and answered questions from residents.
According to JJ Yost, the facilities manager of Lincoln Parks and Recreation, the open house was Lincoln Parks and Recreation’s first time getting opinions from the public about the finalized project.
“We’ve had a little bit of information available on our website as we’ve worked through the design development. But this is really the first time we’ve been able to share images of what things are really starting to look like,” Yost said.
Christa Yoakum, a Lancaster County Commissioner, said she attended the open house to stay in touch with her district and community.
“Our family is really rooted in Lincoln, so I love to stay on top of what’s going on in the community,” Yoakum said.
Yoakum said she’s excited about what the new Air Park Rec Center/Williams Branch Library has to offer.
“It’s exciting to see a multi-use space like this so there’s something for everyone,” Yoakum said.
The new recreation center will be conjoined with Williams Branch Library, which is currently sharing space with Arnold Elementary School. Lisa Olivigni, manager of the library, said that the new location will allow the library to extend its hours and reach more people.
“Currently, Williams is open at four o’clock in the afternoon and closes at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday because of the school session,” Olivigni said. “That really makes us inaccessible to some people who would prefer to come in the morning or the afternoon. So this is going to give us a chance to broaden those hours so that we can reach more people.”
Yost said that combining the rec center with the library made sense for both parties.
“We can share some resources; it’s just a cost-effective way to offer the programming together,” Yost said.
According to Yost, the total project will cost around $9 million and is expected to be finished by 2023.
“That includes both the rec center and the library, and that’s all costs for design, construction, the demolition of this building when we’re done, and the furnishings and everything that goes along with opening the new facility,” Yost said.
The new facility will offer new amenities that the old Air Park Center did not, such as public Wi-Fi, exercise machines, an outdoor walking trail, outdoor play equipment and more.
While the old Air Park Center is still in operation until June 2023, Yost said the building isn’t economically worth fixing.
“The building has probably outlived its useful life at this point, and it’s not in very good structural condition,” Yost said. “It’s also not very energy efficient, and it’s not very effective in its space allocation. So it’s really past the point of trying to rehab or renovate this building, it’s more effective for us to build a new facility.”
Construction of the new building will start this fall and will be finished by summer 2023.