GRETNA, La. - On Saturday, the city of Gretna will officially open the doors to a building city officials have dreamed of since Hurricane Katrina.
Gretna's new civic jewel, the Mel Ott Recreation Center, sits next to Belle Chasse Highway. The $6.5 million building is a multi-use facility with a gym. Additionally, three rooms can host recreation programs ranging from aerobics to pottery and photography.
"Now we can do everything we've always dreamed of, from youth programs, to adults, to seniors, to the disabled,” said Amie Hebert, Gretna Recreation Superintendent.
The staff is so excited they've spent days polishing every surface of the 22,000 square-foot center.
“This is cool. My grandson here, we've got to keep him working, because he's looking at these goals, you know. This is really nice,” said resident Cheri George who visited the center on Friday.
It’s quite a change from the old gym, where there was no running water for bathrooms, the roof leaked, and the building was eventually condemned.
That old gym was in such bad shape the staff had to move into a concession stand for the last month. That was their office. They moved into the new place Thursday.
“This one is 1,000 times better. It's a cardboard box to a mansion,” said Hebert.
The new recreation center is already earning income from events like boxing and wrestling tournaments that are planned here.
"It's huge. We've got rentals that are already committed, and the building isn't even built. They're sight unseen rentals,” Hebert said.
The new recreation center will also be the home of the city's new hall of fame honoring Gretna sports legends, including the building’s namesake, Mel Ott, the baseball legend who grew up in the city.
“This is going to be a great avenue for the young kids in Gretna. Look at the great games they're going to have here,” added George.
The ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. Saturday will be followed by the first basketball game, a match between the Gretna police and fire departments.