Approximately 200 people showed up for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, dedication and tours of the $6.3 million newly acquired — and named — Clermont Arts and Recreation Center on the hill on U.S. Highway 27, just south of Citrus Tower Boulevard.
Officials were on hand and said a few words, praising City Manager Darren Gray as the visionary behind the acquisition of the building, a task he handled after a trio of visioning sessions. At these meetings, members of the community expressed their desire for a venue that could meet the recreational needs of the area’s residents, especially children and seniors.
Gray, however, credits the community for attending the sessions and the city council for listening and complying with the citizens’ desires.
“That, to me, is a huge accomplishment and it shows that we are a community that listens to the people who live in it,” he said. “We made their wishes come true.”
The property is the former home of Celebration of Praise church.
On Friday morning, people in attendance had the opportunity to tour the building. They saw the meeting/party rooms available for rent, office space, gymnasium, pools, a 200-seat theater and what has been declared by officials as the largest performance hall and conference center in Lake County, which can hold up to 1,200 people.
Various community groups were inside the different rooms, demonstrating how the facility can be used.
Mayor Hal Turville reflected back on downtown Clermont’s Jenkin’s Auditorium, a building that, for many years, served as the city’s only venue for get togethers, meetings, wedding, recitals and other events before it was demolished last year.
“You’re here to see this facility opened and made public, and it’s available to you to literally become your community home and make your memories for years to come,” Turville said of the Clermont Arts and Recreation Center.
Councilman Keith Mullins said the facility will be a venue for many things, including symphony concerts, community plays and recitals, weddings, programs, lectures, sports and swimming programs.
“Do not let this be a monument on the hill,” he urged. “This is our community center. Use it, use it, use it.”
The center opens today and people will have the opportunity to swim in the pools, use the gymnasium and other public room.
City programs, including a summer day camp to be run by the Boys and Girls Club South Lake Unit, are scheduled to start at 7 a.m. Monday.