Thousands of large public projects that will require private sector expertise are in final planning stages. When solicitation documents are released, these projects will grab the attention of private sector contractors and competition will be fierce. Regrettably, there are just as many smaller projects – some of them considered critical — that will get less interest from private sector contracting firms.

Smaller projects, less than $50 million in cost, will be abundant in 2023 and many of them will focus on new community center facilities. Numerous cities and counties plan to launch construction projects for community centers that will provide various benefits for local and regional citizens. The new facilities will serve as community gathering locations while offering space for recreational and sports activities. The buildings will also be designed to serve as shelters in the event of weather-related disasters or emergencies of any kind. Many community centers were used as distribution centers and health related operations where vaccinations were offered during the COVID pandemic.

Photo courtesy of the city of Seattle, Washington

During last week’s hurricane destruction in Florida, community centers throughout the state served as emergency shelters. In Sarasota County, when thousands lost power and needed water and food, the local community center became a temporary home for many and a primary distribution site for the essential needs of thousands.

Funding is readily available for projects to renovate, expand, or construct new community centers. It can be obtained through a variety of sources and one of the most common funding options is the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Every year CDBG allocates money to cities and counties for projects that develop viable urban communities. Last year, the program distributed $3.4 billion for local projects and another $5 billion was added to the available funding for projects such as community centers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also offering this type of funding. The agency’s Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program has already disbursed $1 billion in revenue for rural community center projects in 2022. Additional funding will be announced soon for 2023.

In Foster City, California, efforts are underway to replace an old and outdated community recreation center. The project carries a cost projection of approximately $42 million. The new facility will meet numerous needs and is considered a critical priority as the city experiences population growth. The design plan will allocate space for several types of recreational activities as well as areas for emergency needs.

Preliminary planning is underway for a $20 million-$26 million project in Taos, New Mexico. Plans call for the construction of a new Youth and Family Center facility. The new building will approximately double the size of the current 57,000-square-foot building. The parking area will also be doubled, and an area designed for outdoor recreational activities will be developed. The multi-level facility will include a new gymnasium, bouldering area, fitness center, elevated running track, and courts for tennis and pickleball. The outside recreational offerings will include a skate park, space for several sports activities, and an outdoor trail. Another $6 million is available for additional enhancements.

City officials in Seattle have announced plans to redevelop a community center in the nearby Lake City neighborhood. The new community center will include space for recreation, community events, childcare, commercial uses, and more. Planning documents indicate that the facility will be at least two levels, with the possibility of an additional five levels that could potentially accommodate housing units. Cost projections for this initiative, which is still ongoing final design work, are somewhere between $28 million-$40 million.

A $50 million project for a new recreation center in Bozeman, Montana is also in the final planning phase. The new facility will be designed to accommodate more recreation activities and a new library. Currently, citizens are being encouraged to participate in the community engagement phase of the planning process and indications are that the facility will likely include an aquatic area to provide opportunities for local swim teams.

A new indoor community recreation center is being planned for Pella, Iowa and it will carry a budget cost of somewhere between $30 million-50 million. Design work is underway for the new 90,000-square-foot facility. It will include three gymnasiums, an indoor track, an aquatics facility, workout rooms and equipment, public meeting spaces, and a kitchen for community events.

Pitt County in North Carolina will soon launch a project to build two new community facilities at opposite ends of the county. Both new structures will have gymnasiums. Design work is underway, and construction is planned for 2023. County leaders are considering the possibility of designing both facilities alike to minimize cost. Each will include a 20,000-square-foot gymnasium with an additional 5,000 square feet of community gathering space. Each will also be designed to serve as a community shelter during hurricanes, natural disasters, or an emergency of any type.

Construction projects of this type will require services from dozens of other private sector firms. Engineering and architectural firms will be needed along with equipment, furnishings, security and safety work, technology, landscaping, and other professional services.

Mary Scott Nabers

As President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., Mary Scott Nabers has decades of experience working in the public-private sector. A well-recognized expert in the P3 and government contracting fields, she is often asked to share her industry insights with top publications and through professional speaking engagements.