WHEATON — Hundreds of county residents showed up on Sept. 8 to see the new Wheaton Library and Community Recreation Center and Wheaton Local Park.
The new co-located facility totals 92,000 square feet and includes the library, recreation center, Friends of the Library used bookstore and a local park. To conserve space, the library also has a parking garage located underneath the building.
According to the county, this new facility is the area’s first combined recreation center and library.
“The multifaceted design blends literacy and leisure into a unique facility making it possible to participate in yoga, reading, playground activities, pottery, basketball, story time, purchasing of used books and fitness workouts at a single location,” the county wrote in a press release.
During construction of the new building, the Wheaton Library was housed in the Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad across the street.
According to the county, the new building uses space wisely by sharing common areas like lobbies, meeting rooms and restrooms, so while the overall building is smaller than before, the facility itself is optimized.
The library has spaces for collaboration and study, along with public computers and areas dedicated to early reading for children. It also has a more than 63,000 print volumes and media items like videos and books on tape.
Members of the community were able to give their input as to what they would like to see in the new facility through a series of public planning meetings, according to the county.
The Community Recreation Center features a gym and an elevated track, along with fitness rooms. Other spaces include a pottery studio, commercial teaching kitchen, a social hall and a game room. The public will be able to reserve spaces like the social hall and conference rooms in the new recreation center as of November 2020.
An added benefit of the new space is expanded recreation programming, with classes like Zumba, pottery and cooking.
Just outside the library is a 2.3-acre park. Wheaton Local Park includes a playground, open play area and structures that also serve as musical instruments.
Michelle Singer of Wheaton came to the grand opening with her son Josh. She said that she’s excited to see all the activities that the new recreation center will be offering.
Ami Schreiber, who also lives in the Wheaton neighborhood, explained that he came to the grand opening celebration on Sept. 8 to show his appreciation for all the hard work that went into revamping the library.
“We figured that with all the money and time that has been put into this, it’s a show of appreciation that it was the least we could do to come out,” he said. “My family has used the library both when it was old and when it was (housed) across the street; my son is there a couple times a week. This is a big thing; it’s not every day that you have something this monumental, and it also brings the whole community together.”
He went on to explain that libraries are special because they bring people together, not because of race or religion, but simply “because everyone likes to read.”
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration. He noted that in his youth, he often frequented the local library so he could find a quiet place to study.
“I remember how important the recreation center and library were to me when I was a student at Einstein High School. I’d come to the library after school to do research and listen to bands at the recreation center. In fact, the band I was in played at the recreation center.” said Elrich. “This building is an important part of the county’s efforts to reinvigorate the Wheaton area, and is a good example of trying to think differently about how we approach our services to the community in this one building.We are providing a great recreation center and a beautiful library. I appreciate the work that has been done to address the residents’ needs, and I look forward to continuing good work together with our community partners.”
Elrich said that the new facility has a little something to offer everyone and it will continue to be an important piece of Wheaton.
Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro spoke on behalf of the rest of the councilmembers, who were also in attendance.
“The opening of the new Wheaton Library and Recreation Center has been a long time (in) coming; getting this done has been among my top priorities since I began representing the Wheaton area in 2011,” she said. “Wheaton is a vibrant, growing community, and the new Library and Recreation Center plays a pivotal role in its ongoing revitalization. I am excited to be taking part in this momentous occasion after so many years of hard work.”
The new space was created under the management of the county’s Department of General Services. Grimm + Parker was the architect for the project, and Costello Construction served as the general contractor for the project.