That was the reaction of Saxxon Condo, delivered via her smartphone because she is deaf, when asked about the reopening of the community center and library in Upper Stoney Creek’s Valley Park after $14.3 million improvements of dollars.
The six-year-old area resident said she used to come to the center and the library with her children before it closed for renovations in November 2019.
“It’s so wonderful, especially for older people,” Condo wrote. “It’s very impressive how they’ve changed (that) – actually more spaces, cooler, cleaner.”
Charles Todt, who is new to the area and passed through with his family, was equally expansive.
“I absolutely love it. It’s a good open space. The little guy loves it,” he said, referring to his one-and-a-half-year-old son Charlie. to explore.”
Brad Walker, district operations manager in the city’s recreation division, said he’s excited about the entire project, including upgrades that aren’t immediately apparent, like a new heating, ventilation and of air conditioning.
But the space is also “completely transformed”, he said. “It’s much more open and much more accessible.”
The larger lobby and reception area added five restrooms and more seating, including cafe-style tables, cushioned benches and individual chairs by wall connections for phones and laptops.
A new fitness studio is located where one of the two reception desks used to be, with a single larger reception desk now on the opposite side. A bright preschool space now sits in the library’s former footprint.
Cosmetic changes to the pool, which also added toilets, include painting the ceiling and cleaning the pool tiles to make it brighter.
But the new $9.3 million library is the star of the upgrade, now about 12,000 square feet, four times the size of the original library, and featuring the latest technology — with a station to borrow an iPad during visits still in progress.
Branch manager Ania Van Minnen said that in addition to growing its collection of books, DVDs and other offerings, the library’s new attractions include a “creative space” with embroidery machines and to sew.
Next door is a sound studio equipped with a guitar, keyboards, editing station, green screen and equipment for a photo shoot. A 3D printer remains to be added.
“We have high-end stuff, so you can use the guitar, you can create music, you can create a podcast,” Van Minnen said, noting that either space can be reserved online. .
Other new high-tech features include a large-format printer capable of creating poster-sized color prints and a scanner capable of converting VHS tapes to digital formats.
Van Minnen said the library also added three quiet study rooms, acoustic walls to absorb sound, and accessible restrooms.
There is now also a courtyard with benches where people can go to read or get some fresh air, as well as a meeting room funded by a $1.25 million donation from the Taro Landfill Heritage Green Community Trust. .
The room will be shared with the recreation center, with a partition allowing it to be split in two. Uses may include community meetings, recreation and library programs, and author visits.
“We now have the space to do that,” Van Minnen said. “Before, we didn’t.”
Brad Clark, the area councilor, said the renovations took longer than expected due to COVID-19 and supply chain issues, but are “a significant improvement”, catching up with growth of the community since the recreation center opened 40 years ago.
“It’s really exceptional,” he said of the library, adding features like the sound studio to help level the playing field for people who can’t afford their own gear.
That’s important because about one in five Upper Stoney Creek residents struggle to pay their bills, he said.
“This space is really about fairness,” Clark said.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: The city issued a press release announcing the reopening of the Valley Park Community Center and we arranged a visit.