When the new $13 million Fayette County senior center opens in May, Lexington seniors will have nearly twice the exercise and classroom space, a cafe, indoor and outdoor walking tracks and access to athletic fields and green space.
The city broke ground in October 2014 on the two-story center in Idle Hour Park behind Southland Christian Church on Richmond Road after a nearly 18-month search for a potential site.
The 33,000-square-foot center will replace the roughly 17,000-square-foot center at Nicholasville Road and Alumni Drive. That building was constructed in 1983. At the time, it was considered state-of-the-art.
But the building is cramped and can no longer accommodate the city’s growing senior programming. Roughly 13 percent of Fayette County’s population is 60 and older. By 2020, that number should grow to 18 percent, U.S. Census data shows.
“We are signing up 40 new members a month,” said Kristy Stambaugh, the city’s aging and disability services director. “We are able to offer eight different classes at our current location. In this new facility, we will be able to offer 24.”
The new center — paid for through bond money — will allow the city’s senior programming to expand. The center has also been designed to meet the changing needs of the city’s senior population, who are more active and technology-savvy than their grandparents. There will be a new group exercise room, pickleball courts outside, exterior and interior walking tracks and a separate exercise room with treadmills and other fitness equipment. Pickleball is a racket sport that combines elements of badminton, racquetball and table tennis.
“It will also be safer,” said Stambaugh. Nicholasville Road is one of the city’s busiest corridors for both car and foot traffic because of its proximity to the University of Kentucky. “This location will have signal controls both at the Richmond Road and New Circle Road entrances.”
Last week, work continued on the exterior, which will include a variety of different finishes. Many of the interior walls and three staircases have been completed. In addition to stairs, the building will also have an elevator.
Our 60 to 69 year-olds are very tech savvy. The new center will have a more robust Wi-Fi signal than our current center.
Kristy Stambaugh, city aging and disability services director
Staircases may seem an odd choice for a center for people over the age of 60. But research from other centers with stairs shows that seniors take the stairs over the elevator if the stairs are constructed properly. “There are landings where people can stop,” Stambaugh said.
The building —designed by EOP Architects and built by Marillia Construction — also offers a cafe, conference rooms and a kitchen for cooking classes, which the current center does not have, Stambaugh said.
The senior center will also have three companion bathrooms for people who need assistance.
“We don’t have that at our current center,” Stambaugh said. “And it’s definitely needed.”
Visitors will walk into a large, airy foyer. Behind it will be a multipurpose room that can be split into two different spaces. In that multipurpose room will also be an elevated platform that can double as a stage. Around the multipurpose room will be an indoor walking track. Upstairs will be two larger exercise rooms — one for group exercise and a second for fitness equipment. There will also be a much larger billiards and snooker room that will allow for more billiards tables than at the current center, Stambaugh said.
The current center at Alumni Drive and Nicholasville Road has one small exercise room. The Nicholasville Road center is also dark and has multiple hallways, Stambaugh said. “This center only has one hallway,” Stambaugh said as she walked through the interior on Monday.
Jamshid Baradaran, the city’s director of facilities, said the group exercise room will have a special floating floor that absorbs movement.
The center will also be wired for the next generation of seniors.
“Our 60 to 69 year-olds are very tech savvy,” Stambaugh said. “The new center will have a more robust Wi-Fi signal than our current center.”
Joyce Thomas, a city project manager for the senior center, said there have been some delays in the project and change orders that have driven up the cost. “But we do expect it to come in right at $13 million or close to it,” Thomas said.
Baradaran said some of the increase in costs involved remediation of the site because of contaminated soil. When the former Lexington Mall was built decades ago, Idle Hour Park —the ground the senior center is on — was used as a dump, Baradaran said.
The area also has storm water issues. “That project to improve the storm water issues was moved up about 24 months” to coincide with the construction of the senior center, Baradaran said.
The city also must replace some Idle Hour Park playground equipment that was removed during construction. Councilman Bill Farmer, who represents Idle Hour, was recently able to secure an additional $400,000 from this year’s surplus to purchase playground equipment and make other improvements at the park that also includes football, baseball fields and tennis courts.
In addition, the entrance from Idle Hour neighborhood into the park on St. Ann Drive will also be improved, said Chris Ford, the city’s social services commissioner. “It will be easier for people in the neighborhood to have access to the park,” Ford said.