St. Columbkille Parish Center undergoes construction Oct. 23. The expansion is expected to be complete next fall.

Construction on St. Columbkille’s parish center has been moving quickly since its Aug. 12 groundbreaking, Father Dave Reeson said.

The center’s foundations and footings are in place, and steel is almost completely put up, said Dick Van Haute, parishioner and facilities committee chairman.

Winter approaching is incentive to speed up the process, Van Haute said. The goal is to have the building closed in before it gets too cold to work outside, so weather doesn’t delay the project.

From there, the inside will be built. To stay on track with their goal of opening next August, Van Haute said the parish has been working with architects to pick the center’s interior. They’ve looked at samples of paint, carpet and tiles.

The $8.2 million project was funded by parishioners’ pledges and financing from the Archdiocese of Omaha.

The center will be attached to St. Columbkille’s elementary school on the southeast corner of the campus. It’ll include meeting rooms, three classrooms for it’s expanding preschool, a multipurpose gym and two playgrounds.

The school’s current gym gets cramped during sporting events, Van Haute said. The center’s gym will be much larger with a taller ceiling, meaning older grades can have home games and the parish can grow its adult sports.

Van Haute said St. Columbkille, one of the largest Catholic parishes in the archdiocese, may also use it to put on plays or as an overflow room for Masses on holidays.

The new center will allow St. Columbkille to expand its preschool. Due to space limitations in the school, the parish only offers a half-day program. With the expansion, Van Haute said they’ll be able to offer full or half-day preschool.

One of the playgrounds will be dedicated to its preschool designed for smaller children. The other will include a basketball court and equipment for older children.

This year St. Columbkille had to get creative for recess, since the school’s previous playground was on the construction site. Students play in a fenced-in area of the school’s parking lot with temporary equipment.

Another way the center is benefiting the school is by providing elevator access.

Originally it was only intended to serve the center, but Van Haute said plans were altered so the school can take advantage of it as well.

The new facility was built in the spot that formerly held a playground, parking lot and preschool, which needed renovations.

“It’s just going to kind of spruce up the block,” Van Haute said. “I think it’s time for something new.”

The parish is keeping the city’s curb appeal in mind. Beautifying the neighborhood, Reeson said, is a priority.

“We try to be good neighbors,” said Reeson, who is St. Columbkille’s pastor. “We want it to be attractive.”

St. Columbkille’s parish is 3,300 families strong and growing, Reeson said. At the parish’s monthly meeting for newcomers on Oct. 20, 14 new families registered.

The growth stems from a growing Papillion and surrounding area. Since 2010, Papillion’s population has increased about 26% (including recent annexations), Papillion Communications Manager Trenton Albers said.

Reeson said the center will be open to anyone in the community, not just parishioners or Catholics. Community members can utilize the meeting rooms and senior exercise classes, which sometimes met in parking lot due to the lack of space indoors.

“They’re most welcome to come,” Reeson said. “So it’s kind of a nice outreach for the community. Here’s a service we provide for everyone.”

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.