All programs and functions conducted at the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center will be moved to the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center, effective Sept. 1.
The change will make way for the long-planned Cultural Center expansion project, which is about to get underway, Royal Palm Beach Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio said.
“It includes all the daily programs, and all the daily meetings that are held there on a regular basis,” he said. “The Palm Beach County free meal program, which was taking place at the Cultural Center, will now come to the Recreation Center.”
These changes fall in line with the schedule for the renovation and expansion of the Cultural Center as approved by the Royal Palm Beach Village Council earlier this year and detailed in the budget for fiscal year 2018.
Recchio is confident that the Recreation Center will be able to accommodate all the services for the next 12 months as the Cultural Center gets its much-needed improvements.
“The Recreation Center has a number of rooms. We can house every group that is being housed at the Cultural Center. It can be housed here without any issues,” Recchio said. “There is no other facility in the village that we could have moved them to.”
The expansion and renovation are budgeted separately, but both projects will be started and completed together, totaling approximately $3 million.
“That’s why we’re shutting it down. We are going to go in and do everything in one shot,” Recchio said, noting that the expansion will add on 5,000 square feet. “Being that we need to shut it down any way, because we have to knock down an outside wall to make that expansion, it just makes sense that the contractor can come in with the building shut down and go through the entire building, which includes reroofing the facility.”
The contractor for the project has been hired and approved by the council. Recchio expects the contractors to start construction during September.
“We made the plans. We stopped taking reservations at the Cultural Center, effective Aug. 1, so that we can get our plans in place to move everything,” he said. “By us moving out Sept. 1, it gives us enough time to make sure that we get everything out of the building, and the contractor able to take over… It’s their building for the next year.”
During the time that the facility is under construction, the Recreation Center will be able to house almost every program by the village and outside groups that meet at the Cultural Center on a regular basis.
“The only thing that will not take place in the Recreation Center is every month we have a concert, the Royal Palm Beach Community Band concert, and the plans are to have those at Crestwood Middle School,” Recchio said.
The middle school has its “cafetorium” with the space and the stage needed to accommodate a concert.
Recchio, whose office is in the Recreation Center, said it’s going to be hectic while everything is under one roof.
“You’re going to have it when you come to the end of the school day, and you’ve got teenagers coming into the gymnasium, and you’ve got seniors waiting for transportation,” he said. “That’s the only issue that I see. We’re going to have to make sure that we have staff monitoring the hallways and make sure the kids don’t congregate in the entranceway.”
Still, Recchio is not concerned about the accommodations that the center will provide to the people it serves.
“We want to maintain our level of service the best we can,” Recchio said. “All the programs and the groups that are meeting at the Cultural Center now on a regular basis, we want to continue that, because it’s going to mix in with some of the programs we conduct here in various exercise classes. We’ve got our fitness room. Those things are all going to continue.”
Operations at the Recreation Center may have to adjust, but Recchio is confident that problems will be minimal.
“Things run smoothly presently, and I don’t expect that to really change. We have plenty of room. And during the week, the groups that meet [are] smaller groups of 20 to 30 people in a room,” he said. “And on the weekends, we have a couple church groups that meet here, upward of 200 people. We can accommodate them, and we’re not too concerned.”
Aside from regular activity, Recchio said there is potential that outside parties will be less likely to book the Recreation Center for special events while the Cultural Center is closed.
“The one thing, we have to see how it goes, is the rentals. When it comes graduation time or birthday parties, we’ll have to see what’s available. That’s the one thing we’ll have to adjust to,” he said. “We’re going to have to take a look at that and see what we can accommodate. You’re going to have some people say, ‘I really don’t want to have my graduation in a rec center.’ It’s a different type of atmosphere.”
Once the Cultural Center is complete, Recchio said it will be able to support everything that is housed there now and far more.
“What we’re trying to do is present it as a convention center. That’s what we’re looking to do, so that we can bring in groups and have their business meetings, along with weddings and birthday parties and graduations,” he said. “It’s going to open up on the different functions that we can conduct.”