Award Winner - July/August 2003
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Patience Pays Off

Salem Community Center
Salem, Ohio


For the past three decades, the city of Salem, Ohio, has hoped for a recreation center and indoor pool to call its own.

"But there never was enough money to fund such a project," says John Tonti, immediate past president of the board of Salem's new community center. Twenty-five years ago, seed money for the center came from a local family who donated $5 million (which grew to $25 million in trust), but over the years, final plans fell through again and again, until a recent state law regarding endowments changed, freeing up the money raised through community contributions to cover the building's construction cost. Tonti's committee raised an additional $1 million to fund ongoing maintenance.

"People will give money to the community, but there's never enough funds to take care of those properties as they age," Tonti says, explaining that now with maintenance money in place, the building could be green-lighted. "For the first time in 30 years we had the funding for this project."

The community center definitely sprung from community support.

"We have a lot of partnerships going on with a lot of other organizations in town," Tonti says. For example, the YWCA sold its former facility and moved into the new community center. Likewise, there is also a partnership with the local hospital.

When it came to design, multipurpose was key. Flexible spaces were built to serve a variety of needs as opposed to creating a greater number of more specialized spaces. With so many different activities going on, control and supervision were also crucial issues. The control desk is centrally located, like a wheel hub, to maximize efficiency and visual control. A second-level control desk overlooks the exercise area and track.

In the first six months of operation, the center hit the 5,500-member mark and keeps on growing. It's safe to say the building is proving even more popular that planners envisioned.

"With the gym, we wondered how we were going to fill programming," Tonti says. "Now it's full almost all the time. Kids come in off the street to play basketball."

Whether it's pickup basketball, a banquet for 800 or a morning yoga class, the community center is already an instant landmark for Salem.

"We're changing people's lifestyles," Tonti says. "They come here to socialize or to work through some wellness issues. It's a big community meeting place."

"Very nice building, arrangement of spaces, use of glass. Scale is right. Nice, clean detailing."

—Philip Neeley

Submitted by: Payto Architects, Inc.

Size: 59,000 square feet

Project cost: $7.3 million

Quick tour:

  • Six-lane indoor lap pool with 1- and 3-meter diving platforms
  • Second-level pool spectator gallery for competitions
  • Separate shallow training pool
  • Spa whirlpool area
  • High-school regulation multiuse gymnasium with roll-up divider curtain and bleachers to accommodate basketball, volleyball and T-ball
  • Elevated performance stage and elevated indoor track in gymnasium
  • Locker rooms with sauna facilities
  • 3,000-square-foot community meeting room that can be divided into one, two or three individual spaces for 50 to 350 people
  • Full-service commercial kitchen to serve meeting rooms
  • Aerobics room that can also serve as a 50-person meeting room
  • 1,000-square-foot arts & crafts room
  • Art & display gallery
  • 1,200-square-foot teen center
  • 850-square-foot children's daycare center
  • 7,500-square-foot exercise area with a range of cardiovascular equipment, free weights and Spinning
  • Administrative offices

Associated Firms

Structural consultant: Hach and Ebersole

Mechanical consultant: Kenneth R. Kuentz & Associates

Civil/landscape architecture: E. G. & G., Inc.

Electrical consultant: Timothy J. Norris & Associates

Pool consultant and equipment: The Whitmer Pool Co.

General contractor: Stitle Construction Co.

Brick: Belden Brick

Cast stone: Edwards Cast Stone

Metal panels: Benchmark

Glazing: Kawneer

Roof: Firestone

Gym floor: Gerflor Sports Flooring

Ceramic tile: Summitville Tile

Ceilings: USG Interiors

Paint: Sherwin Williams

Carpet: Masland Carpet

Resilient: Nora Rubber Flooring

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