It’s been almost three years since a heavy snowstorm closed Cheney’s Wren Pierson Community Center, 615 Fourth St., when the weight of the snow collapsed the multipurpose room roof.
Since then, the building has been rebuilt and the employees have moved back to their old home, which looks considerably different from the last time they were there.
“It’s definitely a step up from what it was,” said Parks and Recreation Director Paul Simmons.
On the outside, the building has been painted brown, an improvement from the cinder-block gray of the past. The entryway includes a front counter for employees to welcome visitors.
There is a new community room for meetings which includes a window for parents to watch their children in the dance studio next door.
The preschool room features a folding wall which opens into a game and activity room for the youth center, which is open in the afternoons.
The new senior center will house the knitting club, and a bridge club is forming.
The kitchen is now closed off from the senior center, but the center still has access. The kitchen is between the senior center and the multipurpose room, which now has more natural light through the windows and the skylights.
More than half the funding came from insurance after the structure failure in January 2009. Simmons said the city is still processing the invoices from the project.
The city received grant money to put in a basketball court, which includes areas for foursquare and hopscotch. These are located on the south side of the parking lot, on the roof of the downstairs sections of the building.
Simmons said now that the building is back in operation, some services that were forced to evacuate have returned. The senior center, food bank, clothing exchange and Cheney Outreach have all returned. The Cheney Museum, which was once housed in the lower levels, has a storefront on First Street but is using Wren Pierson for some storage. Eastern Washington University SCOPE now has an office in the building.
With the upgrades to the building, Simmons said the city will be able to rent its many rooms to the public for business events, wedding receptions, meetings and other private events.
The multipurpose room can be rented for $65 an hour and includes tables, chairs and kitchen area. A staff person will be available on site if alcohol will be served. Other rooms such as the senior center and the preschool room can be rented for $40 an hour, and the community meeting room can be rented for $30 an hour, with the exception of nonprofit groups, which can rent it for $10 an hour.
The city took possession of the building on Aug. 3 and employees have been slowly getting settled, Simmons said. The city threw a grand opening celebration on Sept. 8, including an appearance by the granddaughter of Wren Pierson. A plaque is now displayed in the building and includes a picture of Pierson, a longtime Cheney School District teacher who died in 1957, and a short biography of his life.
Now that they’ve settled back in to the building, Simmons said the department is gearing up to return to its regular schedule.
“We’re just excited to be back in here,” he said.