GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - "The west side is coming back. The city of Gulfport is coming back," said Dr. John Kelly, as he opened the dedication ceremony for the new West Side Community Center.
Those words from Gulfport's Chief Administrative Officer summarize the excitement surrounding the new building.
"When we all put our minds, our efforts, our skills, and our hearts together, we end up with a great facility like this," Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr said.
The 11,000 square foot facility on 8th Street is now open to the public. The building replaces the destroyed Charles Walker Community Center on the beachfront. It features a fitness center, kitchen, offices, and three meeting rooms.
"I can just see people getting married out there on the pier and then coming in here for the reception," said Ward two Councilwoman Libby Roland. "And the view is outstanding from inside the building. So it doesn't get any better than this."
The center overlooks West Side Park and a splash pad. And next door is the new senior center. It's hard to believe that when Katrina struck nearly four years ago, the same site was overpowered by the stench of rotting meat and paper rolls that washed ashore from the Port of Gulfport.
"It's been a long road, but I hope that you're pleased that we're finally getting to the end of it," Warr said.
Neighbors have reason to be proud. They helped design the building so their neighborhood will come back better and stronger.
"This is recovery at its finest over here. This truly is a great day for west side," Roland said. "It's going to be the place to live, absolutely."
Other projects are in the works in west Gulfport, including replacing water and sewer lines and finishing a new lift station in West Side Park.