The new Wood County Senior Center got a grand, official welcome into the Bowling Green community on Friday.

George and Nancy Seifert, ages 94 and 90, respectively, of Bowling Green, were the first “official” visitors into the center after the ribbon cutting.

“What I see so far is just absolutely amazing. It is open, it looks free, it looks unrestricted,” George Seifert said, adding that he appreciates the plentiful parking and the elevator.

The 34,000-square-foot facility features a huge dining area, coffee atrium with a fireplace, billiards room, media center and other spaces for programs. That compares to 14,500 square feet in the former North Main Street center.

Sue Hess is on the Wood County Committee on Aging board and uses the facility, doing yoga classes. She said she marvels at the new building and the space for programs.

“I giggle when I come in the driveway — I really do. Every time I come over, I find something new and exciting that I didn’t see the last time. And I’m over here quite a bit,” Hess said.

Former board member Ben Batey recalled some of the planning process.

“It’s just such a great day to be here, at this point. It’s amazing how far we’ve come from those initial conversations where we talked about the scope,” said Batey, who is chief health officer at Bowling Green State University. “We wanted to have a building that would last the next 50 years, to serve the needs of older adults in the Wood County community.”

Mayor Mike Aspacher said the designers did a great job of constructing a building that blends into the neighborhood.

“It’s a great location. …. It fits in the community,” he said. “I just think this is a terrific facility for the Bowling Green community and greater Wood County. I have no doubt that this facility is going to serve this community for generations to come.”

Ohio Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, said the project is a successful collaboration with Bowling Green State University, which has office space for the gerontology program in the building.

The $7.1 million building received a state capital award of $1.6 million, which is the largest in Wood County history, she said.

“We started out — it was almost four years ago — just sitting in a room, hearing about this concept and this idea for a new senior center,” Gavarone said. “To come in, at this point today and see it all come to reality, it’s so overwhelming.”

Danilda Lee, who volunteers in the gift shop, said that the new center is beautiful. But it’s the people that make it special.

She has been coming to the senior center almost daily since the 1980s, usually arriving around 10 a.m., staying for lunch and playing cards in the afternoon.

“(I’m excited) that we’re coming in for lunch next week and we can get together and we can see our friends that we haven’t seen in a year. It’s been very tough,” said Lee, who is 80. “Hopefully very soon we will be playing cards and dominoes, those things that we want to do.”

(Multi-media journalist J.D. Pooley did the interviews for this story.)