(Stillwater, OK) — The City of Stillwater and Stillwater Community Center Foundation held a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 7 to mark the beginning of work on improvements that will make the Stillwater Community Center more accessible for the entire community.


The south parking lot is closed and construction fencing has been installed so demolition can begin. Several power poles were previously moved by the City of Stillwater in anticipation of the project.


“The City has been a tremendous partner,” Stillwater Community Center Foundation Chairman Jim Beckstrom said. “They’ve already contributed substantially and continue to do so.”


City staff have also been instrumental in moving the project along, he said.


The Dining Hall and Event Center where lunch for senior citizens is served by Project H.E.A.R.T. is temporarily closed to the public, although that part of the building can still be accessed through an alleyway off Ninth Avenue.


Project H.E.A.R.T. has shifted to drive-through meal distribution until construction is complete, Community Center Manager Stephanie Kinder said. The main entrances to the Community Center will be the north doors and the south door located on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Duck Street. A loading zone is available on the north side for people who need to drop someone off or unload equipment for an event.


The Stillwater Community Center - constructed as Stillwater Junior High more than 50 years before passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act - has always presented challenges for people with mobility issues, in spite of efforts over the years to make it more accessible. 


“One of the longstanding issues with the Community Center is that there was not an entrance accessible to people with disabilities close to the parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities,” City Manager Norman McNickle said. “So in some cases, they had to go all the way around the building to get in. This new ramp will provide immediate access to the building and provide parking close by.”


The new ramped structure will shift the building’s main entrance to the south side, where reconfigured parking and improved traffic flow will allow all residents to enjoy the many events hosted at the facility that has been called “Stillwater’s living room.”

The extended ramp, with switchbacks to make the rise more manageable, will tie the Community Center and adjacent Dining Hall and Event Center together, making both facilities easier to access.


The original design included a modern, pitched cover for the south loading area, but bids came in much higher than expected, Beckstrom explained. The project has been designed so the cover can easily be added later as more funding becomes available, without incurring additional expense for footings. The Stillwater Community Center Foundation plans to keep raising funds for that cover.


Beckstrom said he is hopeful it can be done. He has been amazed at the outpouring from the community that made the first phase of the project possible.


“It’s a true effort across our team and across the community, “he said.


Donors who have already provided support include Kicker, the Faye Aileen Rife Brown Foundation, the Stillwater Community Foundation, BancFirst, the Leadership Stillwater Class of 2021 and more than 100 private donors including the Beckstrom family, Dr. Robert Breedlove, Bill Cooper and Sally Banks.

City officials expressed appreciation for the work the foundation has done and excitement to see the project completed.


“We could have not done this as a city entity alone; this was a community effort,” Community Resources Director Barbara Bliss said. “There have been so many people working on this project, often without any public acknowledgement, and we really appreciate everything they have done. Once complete, the safety and accessibility entrance will be amazing and will serve our community better. And we hope to do some exciting events when this is completed, as a result.

Community Center Groundbreaking

Groundbreaking: Representatives from the City of Stillwater, Stillwater Community Center Foundation and Lambert Construction gathered Nov. 7 for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the beginning of construction on accessibility improvements to the Stillwater Community Center.

Pictured, left to right: Mark Lambert, Lambert Construction; Deputy City Manager Melissa Reames; City Manager Norman McNickle, Eli McDowell, Lambert Construction; Gerrit Cuperus, Stillwater Community Center Foundation; Jim Beckstrom, Stillwater Community Center Foundation; Community Resources Director Barbara Bliss; Vice Mayor Alane Zannotti; Mayor Will Joyce; City Councilor Kevin Clark; Stillwater Community Center Manager Stephanie Kinder; Larry Stein, Stillwater Community Center Foundation

Photo by Erick Moreau, Multimedia Specialist