City celebrates opening of NexusPark park and recreation facilities

Columbus Parks and Recreation welcomed visitors to an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony for its new headquarters and community center at NexusPark on Friday.

Parks staff was joined by Mayor Mary Ferdon, former Mayor Jim Lienhoop, Columbus Regional Health officials, representatives from Taylor Bros Construction and Dunlap, Inc., who worked on the space, Perkins&Will, the architect for the fieldhouse and parks department spaces, and various city officials for the occasion.

“This is a road we started traveling down—and I’m looking for Mayor Lienhoop—(in) about 2016, when he made a statement in his first state of the city address over at Donner Park that we needed to do something because we needed to move the administrative staff somewhere,” Mayor Ferdon said before the ribbon cutting. “At the time we looked at building, but when we purchased the old FairOaks Mall, it seemed like a great fit.”

“The Columbus way is to do it both from a public and private partnership, and we’ve certainly accomplished this with NexusPark,” Ferdon continued.

NexusPark is a joint venture between the city and Columbus Regional Health to transform the FairOaks Mall into a health, wellness and recreation center.

It was the first time much of the public in attendance had a chance to see the spaces in person. Parks spaces displayed included the Circle K Fieldhouse, Child Watch, Cummins, Inc. & Healthy Communities Teaching Kitchen, Toyota Material Handling, Inc. The REC, the Community f1RST Hub and the AEI Fitness Center.

Parks and Recreation Director Mark Jones said sign up for parks programming in the new spaces will start on Monday.

“Pretty much all of our staff from Donner (Center has moved) up to this location,” Jones told The Republic. … “This is a big day for us; some of the envisioning started back in 2016. To see where we’re at today is pretty cool,” Jones said.

The fitness center and Child Watch, where parents or guardians can drop off their children for supervision for up to two hours while using NexusPark facilities or services, will open in about a month.

“Those will come in about the mid-May time-frame,” Jones told The Republic.

Columbus City Council members approved using up to $11.5 million in bonds to fund the new spaces in March of 2022. The project received $6 million from the state through READI grant fundsthat also went towards the project, helping build the Child Watch area, the AEI Fitness Center and the Cummins, Inc. & Healthy Communities Teaching Kitchen.

“This feels great, now the community can actually come in and start using it, or pieces of it, so I’m very excited, very gratified,” Mayor Ferdon told The Republic. “Parks staff has worked a lot, and then just now we are really beginning on the external campus, so yes, big sigh of relief.”