Gonzales Community Center Complex groundbreaking
Members of the Caprara family gather Saturday afternoon to help with the groundbreaking at the future site of the Dennis and Janice Caprara Community Center Complex in Gonzales. (Contributed)

GONZALES — A groundbreaking was held Saturday for Phase 1 of the Dennis and Janice Caprara Community Center Complex in Gonzales.

Hundreds of residents gathered with elected officials at the April 27 event that took place at Gavilan Court and Fifth Street.

The Gonzales High School band performed to kick off the celebration with rocking renditions of popular music. Gonzales City Manager Carmen Gil welcomed everyone and praised all that have contributed to the project.

“You all are helping to make our community an even greater place,” Gil said. “I want to thank the staff and consultants who have also played a role in helping us get to this point. It’s been a long road, but what a milestone we have reached today. The project really took off with the passage of Measure X in 2020 when the voters decided to tax themselves and fund the project. Staff then went out and asked the community what they wanted to see in the project and that led to the design we have today.”

The Community Center Complex will be constructed on a city-owned parcel just east of Fairview Middle School. The entire project is being built in two phases by the design/build team of Otto Construction and WRNS Studio.

Gonzales Community Center Complex groundbreaking
Gonzales City Council members, City Manager Carmen Gil and city staff join Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Sen. Anna Caballero to break ground at the Dennis and Janice Caprara Community Center Complex. (Michael Ramirez)

Phase 1 includes the library, Taylor Farms Teen Innovation Center, restrooms, staff office, courtyard with amphitheater, and parking lot with landscaping. Phase 2 includes the community hall, fitness center, meeting rooms and a commercial kitchen.

Construction for Phase 1 is scheduled to begin this month and to be completed in December 2025.

The estimated budget for the entire project is $34.8 million. The city has the funding to build Phase 1, which includes Measure X sales tax funds, $1.8 million from Monterey County for the library and $5 million that Sen. Anna Caballero secured for the teen center.

“This has been really critically important because you want to be able to use the state money as quickly as possible to make things happen, you don’t want to see it go away,” Caballero said. “So I can get it here, but I can’t make sure it stays unless you use it right away, so I’m really excited about that.”

Caballero went on to discuss Partners for Peace, which she helped found many years ago. The nonprofit’s model is to “create a safe place for teens to find adult mentors where they are appreciated, their voices listened to and they have the ability to make change in the community,” she said.

“That’s what this teen center really signifies — the opportunity to reduce risky behavior and to insure that the teens that are graduating here have the base of support in the community for everything that’s important to them,” Caballero added. “They make better citizens, they make better parents and they make the community stronger, and that’s what this is all about.”

Gonzales Community Center Complex groundbreaking
Gonzales Youth Council, including alumna member Cindy Aguilar-Castaneda (second from right), shovel dirt Saturday to mark Phase 1 of the Dennis and Janice Caprara Community Center Complex in Gonzales. The Youth Council was instrumental with their ideas of what local youth needed at the facility. (Michael Ramirez)

Cindy Aguilar-Casteneda, an alum of Gonzales High, UC Berkeley and a founding member of the Gonzales Youth Council, is thankful that the community of Gonzales is investing in its youth.

“What I ask of the community is to continue investing in and providing youth development opportunities and holistic resources for our students, they deserve it,” said Aguilar-Casteneda. “As you can see from today, they will take the opportunity to drive projects forward and create change that will positively impact their peers, future generations and our community overall.”

Also speaking at the groundbreaking were Gonzales Mayor Jose Rios, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and County Supervisor Luis Alejo.

The event concluded with three groundbreakings that included the elected officials, the Gonzales Youth Council and the family members of Dennis and Janice Caprara.

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