Compared to its North Texas peers, Southlake’s new multipurpose center is late to the game.
But in this case, it pays to be patient.
Southlake leaders spent years touring other cities, learning what worked and what didn’t, surveying their own residents about their wants and needs, and hiring consultants to plan a facility that could fulfill all the needs of the upscale suburb.
The result is The Marq, a $15 million, 23,000-square-foot center with a ballroom, corporate meeting space and the new home of the Southlake Senior Activity Center.
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The grand opening on Dec. 12 drew hundreds of people to The Marq, at the southwest corner of Bicentennial Park on Shady Oaks Drive. They got free food, live Christmas music by the Southlake Community Band and guided tours of the facility.
The center could set a new standard for multipurpose facilities in Southlake, not only from the high-end finish out and attention to detail, but also for its versatility and the potential to generate revenue by being rented out.
"All of our social organizations that have so long needed great meeting space. This is the kind of place you can be proud of," Mayor Laura Hill said. "We wanted to be multi-generational. We have a very family-centric community. But we have all ages to consider. I see this place in 20 years being just as vibrant and full of activity as it is today."
Southlake resident David Darmsetter meets regularly with oil and gas drillers as part of his home business, which has working interests in wells in Texas and Oklahoma. After touring the corporate meeting space he’s ready to look into rental rates.
"This would be a great location for me to convene meetings," he said.
The Traditions Ballroom, which can seat 300 people, already had five weddings booked before it even opened. It’s got a stage and a catering kitchen for receptions and events.
"We’ll be very busy here pretty quickly," said Kate Meacham, deputy director of community services for the city of Southlake.
The new Senior Activity Center officially opened Monday at The Marq, moving out of the old facility on Parkwood Drive. The new facility has a homey feel with many amenities you’d find in a home.
"We like to call it their living room space," Meacham said.
There’s a library nook featuring a fireplace and a man cave with multiple televisions and pool tables. There’s even a kitchen where seniors can heat up meals or coffee or even take cooking classes.
The facility is open to residents of any city. The only catch is that users must be 55 and or older, or as Meacham says, "55 and better."
As a senior herself now, Hill said she’s impressed with the amenities there.
"You walk into this new senior center and you feel young. You feel happy," Hill said. "There are computers in there. There’s state-of-the-art technology. It just gives our seniors a chance to grow and get educated in a real first-class facility."
Asked what will happen with the old senior center, Hill said the city has no plans to sell that land.
"We own that land, as long as I’m mayor, we will continue to own that land," Hill said. "I don’t see any development on that land unless it’s something that works for our citizens."
There’s also the Club Lounge, a room that could be rented out for everything from baby showers for watch parties for sports. It features flat screen televisions and a bar, although people will have to hire their own licensed bartender.
"We don’t purchase or serve," Meacham said. "They can choose to find an outside company who is regulated to do that."
Outside, there’s an outdoor amphitheater called the Aria with seating for hundreds and a food truck court. There’s also abundant patio seating so people can congregate outside The Marq.
Bigger plans ahead
Even bigger plans are on tap for Phase 2 of The Marq, an 84,000-square-foot expansion that will feature indoor aquatics, fitness center, a gymnasium and running track.
Called Champion’s Club, construction is expected to start in late 2016 with a scheduled opening in early 2018. It will be built to the west of Phase 1.
The focus for that phase will be on fitness and quality of life. It will be open to anyone, but Southlake residents will get a discount.
Southlake and neighboring cities already have several private gyms, but Hill said she doesn’t foresee that being a problem.
"I don’t see it as competing," she said. "There will be a lot of things happening here. You may not come here just to work out. You may come here to go to a meeting and then jump in the gym on your way out."