Center opening soon

Published 10:35 pm Thursday, January 22, 2009

The keys to the Opp Wellness Center will be turned over to hospital officials on Jan. 30.

Dr. Wheeler Gunnels said the U.S. Department of Agriculture will perform its final walkthrough of the facility that day.

“Then, once it’s done — they hand us the keys, and it’s ours,” Gunnels said. “It’s been a long time coming and something we all can be proud of.”

The project, estimated at $2.7 million dollars, has been in the works since 2006 and features a 13,000-plus square foot building that will house an indoor heated pool, equipped with handicap lifts; an exercise/weight training area, complete with everything from treadmills to state-of-the-art cardio equipment; a physical therapy rehab area; an education center/multipurpose room equipped with a commercial kitchen; a racquetball court; shower and wash room areas and office space.

“And let me tell you, if just half of the people who have said they’ll use the aquatic pool, do — well, we’ll have a pretty good membership,” Gunnels said.

No fee or membership schedule has been established yet, he said.

“We expect to make the move (from the Opp Micholas-Mill location) to the new building on the 11th and the 12th (of February),” he said. “So, it shouldn’t be long before we know exactly how much membership will be and what benefits go with the levels of membership.”

Gunnels said once the move is complete, it won’t be long before the facility can be put into use.

“This is a really great building, very modern in its design and the equipment and things to be offered,” he said. “I’d say a day or so after the move, we can open the doors and start seeing patients.”

Gunnels said crews are currently finishing the paving of the parking lot.

“I think when people open it up and walk through, they’re going to be impressed,” he said. “I know we are.”

Gunnels previously said that phase two of the project will consist of an indoor basketball court created using the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines that would allow the space to be converted to a medical needs shelter in times of crisis.

One of the main sources of funding is the Mizell Memorial Hospital Foundation, who has dedicated the proceeds of the group’s annual gala to the project. Additionally, funding was also secured through a low interest USDA loan and donations from private groups such as the Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation and Alabama Electric Cooperative.