The facility at 100 Republic St. will offer 24-hour access starting March 1, making it one of only a handful of public recreation centers to do so in the state.
“It’s available to adults over 18 only or individual adult single-pass holders,” said Joe Lindenberger, Norwalk parks and recreation superintendent.
Two key fobs will be available per family pass.
“Another person can get a key fob for an additional $20,” Lindenberger said. “There is somebody in the building until 9 p.m.; we staff it until 9 p.m.”
Open during the 24-hour access will be the track, gymnasium, weight and cardio rooms and the family locker room. The gym and track area will have half-lighting at night, which should be adequate for using the track and/or shooting the basketball. Users will need to BYOB — bring your own ball.
Lindenberger said the open parts of Ernsthausen are for “nothing competitive” and are geared toward “leisure exercise” and “track enthusiasts.”
“The pools are not part of this; they will be locked,” the superintendent added.
Smetzer Security Systems will install an updated security system.
“We budgeted for that anyway,” Lindenberger said.
In addition, the Norwalk police and fire departments will have key fobs to Ernsthausen in their vehicles. Officers will perform regular walk-throughs of the recreation center.
“What he (Lindenberger) is proposing should work out just fine,” said police Chief Dave Light, who toured the facility with Capt. Mike Conney, Norwalk Fire Chief John Soisson and Lindenberger before Christmas.
Light said the facility has many security cameras, but “he’s going to add a lot more.”
Last year, the police department replaced 14 to 16 cameras that were about 20 years old. Light said the old units weren’t providing clear pictures and “you couldn’t make out people’s faces.”
“It’s made a world of difference,” the chief added.
The camera footage from Ernsthausen will be fed into police dispatchers’ monitors.
“I think it’s going to be great for our community,” Light said.
The chief and Norwalk Safety-Service Director Dan Wendt are recommending residents who will use Ernsthausen at night to have a “workout partner” with them. Making sure members are accompanied by other members will be verified by the key fobs.
“Use the buddy system,” Wendt said.
Despite whatever physical condition people are in, Light said they “should have a spotter with them” in the weight room. Night-time users will have the option of exercising while wearing a Life Alert system, which will be provided at Ernsthausen.
In addressing the security issues, Wendt said he spoke with Travis Thompson, the city risk management consultant, who “told us we’re doing all the right things” and Norwalk has all the appropriate elements in place.
Lindenberger has based the 24-hour access concept on what has been used in Twinsburg for more than two years. He said he discovered it while on the recreation center website, asked the Twinsburg staff many questions and then toured the facility twice. Wendt was with Lindenberger the second time.
“We talked about (doing) this about a year ago,” said Lindenberger, who has received positive feedback from city officials about the 24-hour access. “They love the idea, by the way. The safety force is on board.”
In addition to the 24-hour access at the rec center, the new splash pad will be open in mid-May or early June. A separate story about the Ernsthausen Community Center’s plans and projects for 2018 is posted on this website.