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Gretna Crossing Park shaping up, as city charts future growth

From the Inside this week's Gretna Breeze: Sept. 14 series
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City officials were practically beaming during a progress tour of the new Gretna Crossing Park construction site on Thursday, and there is much to crow about.

Members of the Gretna City Council, the construction and design teams, and other area dignitaries were able to survey portions of the 157-acre park. Since the groundbreaking in May 2021, simultaneous work on the recreation and aquatics center, sports fields and other amenities continue at a brisk pace.

Gary Leapley, a partner at MCL Construction, said the park and new Gretna East High School are his “passion projects.” He said all the involved entities are collaborating efficiently to finish work.

“Gretna’s my town. I understand what it means to the community,” Leapley said. “It’s a priority for me, so I guess that creates a little more emphasis.”

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An artist rendering of the recreation and aquatics center at the Gretna Crossing Park, including the lazy river water feature.

Large sections of the recreation center’s structural work are complete, which will house a wellness center — with equipment for cardio workouts, weights and an indoor fitness track — along with a cycling center, gymnasium and child care areas.

On the south side of the center, work continues on a competition-sized swimming pool for the Gretna Public Schools. With stadium seating for nearly 400, students will no longer have to travel for practice and will be able to host swim meets.

Just south, two outdoor water areas are finishing cement work. One side features a zero-entry pool, with a shallow walk-in that gets progressively deeper. The other, the lazy river, is twisty channel that will feature several water slides, including a tall vertical slide for speedy thrills. The outdoor water park will replace the Gretna City Pool, which is outdated and deteriorating.

When complete, the facility will be known as the Gretna Crossing YMCA. Rebecca Deterding, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Omaha, said the Y has been in conversations with the city for over a decade to open a facility in town.

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Current construction of the zero entry pool at the aquatics center of Gretna Crossing Park.

The YMCA has similar agreements with several area cities and school systems to manage facilities, but this will be one of the largest programs in the group’s 150-year history in the metro.

Deterding said the YMCA has been part of the planning process, ensuring the center meets its criteria, which project developers have exceeded.

“Whenever organizations who are community serving — their goals are all to strengthen the community — can come together to bring these amenities to the citizens here, it really does amplify the impact,” she said.

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An artist rendering of the zero entry pool at the aquatics center of Gretna Crossing Park.

The new YMCA should employee seven to 10 full-time employees and around 150 part-timers. Brandon Brugger has been named executive director.

At the baseball fields, a central concession stand has been erected, while tall poles for netting have been fixed.

City Administrator Paula Dennison said the tour was an effort to keep residents up-to-speed, “our teaser”. Traveling along the highway, the park’s progress is not readily apparent.

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An artist rendering of the new competition pool for the Gretna Public Schools at Gretna Crossing Park. With stadium seating for nearly 400, students will no longer have to travel for practice and will be able to host swim meets.

Until two access points along Capehart Road are completed, people have to drive through a residential neighborhood to get a good view.

“I really don’t think most people realize how far along this is. It’s a cloudy hope they have,” Dennison said. “Hang on to your hats, ‘cause it’s coming.”

By the time Gretna Crossing Park is complete, sometime in fall 2023, the nearly $60 million project will feature the rec and aquatics main building; baseball and softball fields with batting cages; and mixed-use fields for soccer and other sports.

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Workers stand near the under construction competition pool for the Gretna Public Schools at Gretna Crossing Park.

There will also be picnic shelters and playgrounds; two exercise spots for large and small dogs; a nature area with an outdoor classroom; an amphitheater; a fishing pond with a dock; an 18-hole disc golf course; and large, open greenspace. A series of bike and pedestrian trails will link the park to the rest of the city.

Mayor Mike Evans said the park is not a tool designed to attract people to Gretna, but rather an outgrowth of “what our citizens want and who they are.”

“It’s a once in a lifetime project, and we want to make sure the community understands that we are delivering on their vision, respecting the money, and staying in budget and on time,” Evans said. “It’s a game changing asset for the community.”

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When complete, the competition pool at Gretna Crossing Park can host swim meets, with stadium seating for nearly 400.

Gretna residents approved a half-cent sales tax for the project in May 2020, and a portion of funding for the competition pool will come from the school system, part of a bond issue passed by voters in 2020. Corporate sponsorships of the ball fields and outdoor pools will contribute to ongoing maintenance.

“By co-locating everything, everybody wins. It helps keep taxes down,” Evans said.

The park is also intended to be an early step in the proposed Gretna Crossing Corridor.

“This will be really the catalyst,” he said. “It will create a lot of momentum in this part of town.”

The master plan, approved by the city council in May, says it will create “a unified vision and a plan for the future growth and development of the Highway 31 and I-80 corridor area” from the park to the Nebraska Crossing mall.

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Members of the Gretna City Council, the construction and design teams, and other area dignitaries were able to survey portions of the 157-acre Gretna Crossing Park construction site on Thursday, Sept. 8.

“As a gateway into Gretna off the interstate, we need to masterplan and set forth our vision for this whole area,” Dennison said.

The plan has various criteria for housing and commercial uses.

“We were concerned that the developers were going to define our community, because people were just taking land and saying ‘We’re going to do this and that’, and we thought ‘Wait a minute’ we need to define our community and lead the developers,” Evans said.

Dennison said the city estimates Gretna could “triple or quadruple” in size by 2040 to more than 40,000.

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Mayor Mike Evans hosted a walk through tour of the Gretna Crossing Park construction site on Thursday, Sept. 8.

The crossing plan aims to create a community-based development with a town center and greater connectivity, rather than just “neighborhoods and strip malls,” Evans said.

“When you’re in Gretna, you are going to know you are in Gretna,” he said.

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