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$850K price tag put on expanding Gathering Place for bridge games

Adding another large room and a similarly sized unfinished basement to the Gathering Place senior citizen’s center would cost an estimated $850,000, the Peachtree City Council was told Tuesday night at a workshop meeting.

If the question is whether or not to pursue the project, city residents will get to have their say on the matter. That’s because the city is including the expansion project as a question on the annual city survey, which is expected to be finalized at the beginning of the year.

As for the Gathering Place expansion, it would add a finished 3,750-square-foot “large room” to the building and a basement of similar size that would remain unfinished for now but primed for future expansion if needed.

Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch said she worried that if the expansion was approved by council, city staff would have to spend significant effort in seeking rentals to offset the expenses.

Although the expansion would be put on the citizen survey, Councilman Eric Imker said a high percentage of support would not guarantee the project would go ahead. Instead, other factors will have to be taken into account as well, he added.

Imker has suggested asking city residents to pay a one-time property tax increase to fund the construction instead of financing the project over 15 years at an estimated cost of $6.80 per year for a home with a fair market value of $200,000.

The overcrowding of the Gathering Place came up as a topic several months ago when the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau moved the visitors center to the box office of the city amphitheater, which is immediately next door to the Gathering Place. A bridge group has met routinely at one of the box office’s larger rooms because there is no space available for them to play at the Gathering Place, officials said.

Leisure Services Director Randy Gaddo said the Gathering Place schedule on weekdays carves out about 70 percent of its time for free or low cost programming while the other 30 percent goes to fee-based classes and other rentals, and the balance becomes 50-50 on the weekends with more demand for facility rental.

Gaddo also suggested the facility could be rented more for wedding events and the like if the city allowed alcohol to be served there, but council decided to seek more information on that before making a decision.

Last year the Gathering Place had 76 rentals for about $14,000 in revenue for occasions such as family reunions, birthday parties and receptions, Gaddo said.

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