Rec and cultural facility should attract all

Not one of the nearly 15 neighbors who attended Millville’s special meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 1 regarding the proposed recreation center within the Millville by the Sea project complained about the size of the 56,000-square-foot building. No one complained about its location or the concept.

The only bickering at Tuesday’s meeting centered on who would be allowed to use the “awesome” facility.

“It’s a nice facility that can offer a lot to a lot of people,” Millville by the Sea Project Manager Al Ruble said Tuesday. “(But) you have to be careful; you have to be fair.”

Ruble said that Millville by the Sea residents will have priority with the extravagant recreation and cultural building. Current Millville residents will come next. Ruble even talked about allowing residents within a certain radius of the development to join the center. But at one mention of “fairness,” he struck a chord with at least one nearby resident in attendance.

“We’re absorbing a lot of the inconvenience,” said Whitney Price, who lives near the proposed development in an area not yet annexed by the town.

Millville Mayor Gary Willey seconded her notion, saying that nearby residents should be allowed to use the facilities.

“I really want it to serve all of the community,” Willey said, adding that he supports the “radius” plan, “because they’re being impacted.”

Ruble seemed to agree, as well, but noted that a decision is pending.

“I understand your point,” Ruble told Price at Tuesday’s meeting. “Nothing’s set in stone. We want to do the right thing. We don’t want someone next door not to be able to come in.”

The nearly 56,000-square-foot two-level building will include a library annex on the first floor, along with a performance-arts center that doubles as a reception hall and conference center that will be able to hold about 200 people, according to current plans.

Racquetball, volleyball and basketball courts will also line the 40,000-square-foot first level along with a four-lane bowling alley, an aerobics area, locker rooms, a snack bar and an indoor swimming pool.

A jogging track, a weight room, an observation area and other areas designated for “craft and hobbies” will fill the 16,000-square foot second floor. A concert pavilion with about 200 seats and a water park — complete with water slides, an outdoor pool and a tube float — will sit on a manmade river as the focal point of the outdoor area.

Walking and biking trails, a picnic spot, a jogging track and canoes, kayaks and paddle boats on the river will complete the experience.

“It’s the heartbeat,” of the community, Ruble said. “Hopefully, this becomes a gathering place.”

To some though, none of that will matter, unless they’re allowed to use the facility.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Price said. “It sounds too good to be true.”