The indoor equipment, originally priced at about $1 million, was donated from Kalahari Resort in Sandusky and is located in a separate complex beside original center.
“This whole building was built just for this (the play equipment),” said Park and Rec director Mark Weisenberger. “This set is the largest one this side of Mississippi.”
The set was taken down and deconstructed in Kalahari in 2014 and began set up in Bellevue on Dec. 10. Weisenberger estimated they were about 95 percent finished with the set up.
“It’s been a 10 week project,” he said. “We should be finished in April. We don’t have an exact date, but sometime in the Month of April.”
The project was a hefty one, despite donations from Janotta and Herener and Kinder Morgan. Weisenberger estimated they still needed about $100,000.
Kinder Morgan vice-president Alan Fore took the time to check out the new play area and present the a $5,000 check toward the bill.
“Here’s $5,000 today and we will definitely consider a larger gift as well,” Fore said Thursday. “It’s great to see something like this open to those in the community and to be available to those in a lower income. ... This is a real showcase for you.”
Weisenberger said the new addition hopefully will fill in a gap with their original center.
“The community center is at least 30 years old,” he said. “It has the traditional areas of a fitness center but one component we were missing was a family component, like a swimming pool or ice rink. We looked into them, but the initial expense and the expense of upkeep was significant. Then we had this opportunity come up with the donation of the equipment and Kinder Morgan’s donation. ...Now we’ll have something — an area for the whole family.”
The equipment features at least 10 air cannons that shoot into the ball-filled center of the circular play area. The balls can be propelled to seem to float midair and children can use the cannons to blow the balls to the other side of the contained area. The contained soft play equipment is surrounded by netting on the sides and top and has cushioned protectors over hard, metal surfaces to protect those playing.
“It’s intended for ages 12 and under but if mom and dad want to go in and play or to get their child, it’s certainly big enough that they can,” Weisenberger said before estimating the component could easily hold at least 300 children at a time.
Weisenberger believed it would serve families in about a six-county district and was looking into partner options with Norwalk’s Ernsthausen recreational center and Fremont’s recreation department.
“We’re looking into a daily admission or a punch-card option families could use for Norwalk’s pool and Fremont’s ice rink,” he said.