Back in September, a group of state, county and local officials, along with some Suffolk Community College cheerleaders and their “Shark” mascot, gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony in front of a sign that read: “The Future Home of the Eastern Campus Health & Wellness Center.”
Fast-forward nine months and the sign remains, but its letters have faded, the politicians and cheerleaders are gone and no work has begun on the health and fitness center.
So, what happened?
A college spokesman says the fitness center is still planned but will take a little longer than expected.
“What happened was there was a delay because of permitting issues and questions by the county Department of Public Works about the total number of people the building could hold,” said Suffolk Community College spokesman Drew Biondo.
“Those issues have now been resolved and we’re going through a redesign process,” he said. “We expect that process to be concluded by the end of summer or very early fall, and after that we would have to go out to bid on the building.”
The project was still in the permitting stage at the time of the Sept. 28 groundbreaking and officials said then that once the permits were received it would take about 18 months to build.
An eight-lane indoor swimming pool, a rock climbing wall, a regulation-size basketball court, an indoor track, and weight training equipment are just some of the features planned for the estimated $18 million, 48,000-square-foot fitness center, which will be open to the public when not in use by the college. Plans for the pool and other features are intact, but parts of the project — a few classrooms and some public areas — will be reduced in size, Mr. Biondo said.
A fitness center at the Eastern Campus was actually first proposed as part of the college’s master plan in 1973, four years before the campus was built. However, it took years before the county allocated the funding for the project. It also required a waiver from the state’s Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission allowing it to be built within the core of the Pine Barrens, where development is largely prohibited. That waiver was granted in early 2013.
That commission didn’t exist in 1973 when the college planned the fitness center.
Photo Caption: A faded sign is the only indication a groundbreaking ceremony was held nine months ago to start construction on a fitness center at Suffolk Community College. (Credit: Tim Gannon)