EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Karen Sylvester, 72, Town of Peshtigo (front), walks fast Feb. 27 with John Corwin, 71, Marinette (left), Donna Haefer (center) and her husband Andy Haefer, Town of Peshtigo, at the Community REC Center in Marinette. 
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

Karen Sylvester, 72, Town of Peshtigo (front), walks fast Feb. 27 with John Corwin, 71, Marinette (left), Donna Haefer (center) and her husband Andy Haefer, Town of Peshtigo, at the Community REC Center in Marinette. 

MARINETTE — Despite lingering construction complaints, the new Community REC Center is seeing mostly positive response from community members who have had a chance to try out the recreation and events center’s facilities since its grand opening in January. 

Recreation Director Kent Kostelecky, whose offices are located in the new building at 2501 Pierce Ave., happily shows guests around the facility with a smile plain on his face. 

“The building is finally finished,” he said, though he admitted to still figuring out staffing for the building. “It was worth the wait.” 

Kostelecky’s excitement is shared by many who now use the Community REC Center for fitness and events. Fincantieri Marinette Marine recently rented out the entire building for its upcoming Family Day celebration, and space reservation and membership numbers are climbing.

The turf gym and its surrounding walking track are favorites for activities and walkers, and Kostelecky described the turf area as “crazy busy.” 

“Especially those days where we had snow days, we had a hundred kids playing in here,” he said. “There were two soccer games and a football game going on at once, and the next day there was a kickball game and two soccer games and a football game going on at once.” 

A batting cage has also been installed inside the turf area, which allows local baseball and softball teams to practice for their upcoming seasons. Taking care of the turf is new to the Recreation Department, and stray pieces from the 56,000 pounds of rubber beads must be blown back onto the field on a regular basis. The field is also dragged and the faux grass fluffed up about once a month. 

Walking into the turf gym, however, guests can clearly see a crack forming in the new concrete floor. Others have been reported in the center gymnasium and even on a few walls. Kostelecky chalks it up to the “construction issues” which plagued the facility while it was being built, and the repercussions for which the city is still paying for and exploring litigation. The Community REC Center’s completion was delayed for nearly an entire year due to weather issues, improper wall panel installation and a messy split between the City of Marinette and its original construction manager that left the project in limbo until Fall 2018. 

The forming cracks don’t appear to be deterring interest in the Community REC Center, however. While the EagleHerald was touring the facility, representatives from the Shawano School District were also being shown around the space, and more than a dozen visitors were walking the track around the turf field. 

“The times that I’ve been there, it’s been utilized a lot,” Bay Area Regional Tennis Association (BARTA) member and Marinette High School assistant tennis coach Geneva Hanson said of the facility. “There’s a lot of people there, and I think that’s a good thing.” 

BARTA holds an open tennis court event on Thursday evenings between 7 and 9 p.m. in the gymnasium area. Hanson said there is a bit of a “learning curve” for navigating the new layout of the gym, which also contains basketball and pickleball courts, but the addition of tarps to direct pedestrian traffic last week should help. 

Hanson also said she had not noticed cracks in the dedicated tennis court area, but she had noticed a crack on the walking track around the turf field. She said it was not an issue for her. 

The brand-new ice rink has also received plenty of praise, according to Kostelecky. The ice arena likely played a large role in the M&M Thunder girls hockey program hosting the WAHA Girls 12U B State Championship tournament on Saturday and Sunday. 

“It’s probably one of the nicest rinks north of Milwaukee,” Kostelecky said. “We keep it about 60 degrees in here, and with that infrared heater above the bleachers up there, it’s about 10 degrees warmer, so people can come in here comfortably in a sweatshirt and watch a game.” 

Early concerns about the sound system in the ice arena have been remedied, he added, as the M&M Thunder Hockey Association took the sound system from the old Civic Center ice dome and re-installed it around the Community REC Center rink. 

“Everybody that comes in here, and I can honestly say this, I haven’t had any negative comments from anybody,” Kostelecky said. “Everybody is surprised how big it is, how many things there are to do in here. To have this in a community of our size is just unheard of.”