For 40 years or more, Plattsmouth residents dreamed of having a community center, but their vision didn’t become a reality until 10 years ago.
The former center, across from Steube’s Thriftway, was built in the mid-70s and needed repairs, but the city’s taxpayers wanted something larger with more amenities such as an exercise venue, pool and more space for senior citizens to gather for meals and activities.
“People wanted a place with exercise equipment, something newer with a roof that didn’t leak,” said Plattsmouth Mayor Paul Lambert.
Many times over the years, the city council had plans drawn for a new building, but as its members changed so did the plans. In January 2003, Lambert, who was serving as Plattsmouth City Council president, took over as mayor when Mayor Charlie Wondra lost his hard-fought battle with cancer. Shortly after he assumed the mayorship, Lambert asked the council to revisit the idea of building a new structure.
In response, the council circulated a survey asking residents what they hoped to have in the center.
We surveyed people and one of the things they wanted was a pool,” Lambert said.
By 2005, plans were created for a $5.7 million, 45,000-square-foot facility with a gymnasium, pool, daycare, space for aerobic exercises, cardio exercise equipment area and new senior citizen nutrition center. Sampson was hired to build the center.
On a cold and blustery April 7, 2006, a ground-breaking ceremony was conducted at the site, 308 S. 18th St. People turning the first shovelfuls included former Plattsmouth City Administrator John Winkler; Lambert; former Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jeanene Wehrbein; city council members Doug Derby and John Porter; former councilman Art Tesarek and former council president Ruth Wassinger; Plattsmouth Senior Nutrition Center Executive Director Carol Gray; and former Parks and Recreation Director Don Story.
In an address prior to the ceremony, Lambert noted a new community center had long been a dream of Plattsmouth citizens. “I call it a dream because that is what it has been for many years. Something this city needs for its citizens – young and old. Many people who kept this dream alive are not here with us today. Their time ran out but they passed the dream to another group, each one helping to make the dream clearer and closer to a reality.”
Lambert said Wondra was one of those people who “kept the dream alive.” He recalled visiting Wondra in the hospital just days before the former mayor passed away. At the end of the visit and, as Lambert was walking out of the hospital room door, Wondra called for him to come back to his bedside.
“He looked me in the eye and said, ‘We have to get this built for our city,’” Lambert said.
And so, in time, it was done.
On April 1, 2008, the community center had a soft opening with Becky Vermuele as its first fitness director. The grand opening, held May 31 that year, included an open house, health fair and ribbon cutting. Guests were treated to muffins, fresh fruit and celebratory cake. By the grand opening, Vermuele said 435 people had purchased memberships.
Lambert encouraged people at the ribbon cutting to become members. “We want you to use it to the utmost,” he said.
In 2014, Michael Lennen took over as Plattsmouth recreation director. Since that time, he has overseen operations at the community center, Twin Rivers Water Park and all of the public parks.
Lennen said an average of 15 instructors teach classes to 1,300 community center members. Classes include gentle yoga, cardio workouts, Preschool P.E., cycling, barbell programs, strength classes utilizing free weights and other equipment, Zumba, and the center’s newest program, Barre Above.
“Barre Above is a 45-minute program that is ballet inspired. It is a low impact workout and a full-body conditioning class,” Lennen said. “The class starts this week for ages 12 and older.”
Each month, the center sponsors a community event. In March, the center is teaming with Plattsmouth Public Library for a St. Patrick’s Day Party including Irish-themed games, food and prizes. The party is scheduled 1-3 p.m. Saturday, March 17.
The center is also offering a self-defense class for ages 12 and older from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, March 31.
The community events are just some of the changes Lennen has made at the center since he assumed directorship. “In 2015, we purchased all new cardio equipment. We also painted the walls to add more color to the center and make it more appealing to members. We revamped our aerobics classes. We have new classes every 10 weeks,” he said. “In the summer, we sponsor movies in the park.”
Lennen has also overseen repair projects at the center including roof and swimming pool repairs.
“We had to stabilize the wall adjacent to the swimming pool because the ground was eroding from water. We secured the wall and soon we will be replacing the walkway leading to the community center door,” he said.
In addition to Lennen, employees at the center are Aquatics and Childcare Director Elizabeth Glup, Member Services Manager Lori Lias, Group Fitness Coordinator Fran Walsh and Senior Nutrition Center Director Carol Gray.
Lennen and his staff are planning a 10-year anniversary celebration for the center.
This year Easter falls April 1, so the anniversary celebration is postponed to April 2 through April 7.
“We will be closed on the actual day because it is Easter, yet from April 2 to April 7, it will only cost $1 per day for any non-member to come in and childcare will be free the entire week,” Lennen said.
Each day, people are invited to visit the center and enjoy a different giveaway including bottles of water, granola bars and smoothies. An open house is scheduled 10 a.m. to noon Friday, April 6.
“We also encourage people to come in and enter to win a free gift basket,” Lennen said. “We will have three gift baskets, but one will be the grand prize. The drawing for the basket will be at noon April 6.”
Lennen said the baskets will be on display by the end of March.
Lambert is proud that the center has been so successful.
“At the time we built it, I didn’t realize it would be so appreciated by our senior citizens and I’m pleased with that. Our seniors use it as a gathering place for non meals, Meals on Wheels and card playing. It is used by a lot of citizens in the area for swimming in the pool and exercising. It is a great addition for our community,” he said.