Contractors have started building the $9.4 million Assumption Community Center, a facility expected to serve as a community gathering place as well as a disaster response site, officials said.

Planned on La. 308 next to the Assumption High School parking lot in Napoleonville, the metal building with brick façade is to be used by schools, churches, social groups and residents, officials said.

Officials said the nearly 34,000-square-foot center will be the largest building of its kind in a parish where, due to space concerns, school officials have given Assumption High seniors the annual choice of holding graduation ceremonies in their football stadium or the Thibodaux Civic Center in next-door Lafourche Parish.

“The Assumption Community Center has been a long-awaited project that greatly benefits the citizens of Assumption Parish,” parish Police Jury President Martin Triche said in a news release.

A formal ceremony to mark the official start of construction was held Thursday.

The center, which Lincoln Builders Inc., of Ruston, is constructing, is being paid for with federal hurricane recovery dollars, state officials said in the statement.

Lincoln has 15 months to finish the job, but it is possible construction could be wrapped up in a year, an architect on the project said.

The $9.4 million funding the community center is part of $26.9 million in Community Development Block Grant dollars awarded to the parish to help it recover from hurricanes Gustav and Ike of 2008, state officials said. The federal dollars passed through the Louisiana Office of Community Development-Disaster Recovery Unit to the parish Police Jury.

Christina Stephens, Office of Community Development spokeswoman, said the center will be a central location for distribution of relief supplies after disasters. She noted the building’s ability to hold a variety of community events, from festivals to workforce training.

“These kind of events will foster economic growth in the parish,” she said in an email.

Stephen Viguerie, principal with Duplantis Design Group of Thibodaux, the firm that designed the building, said it will have two distinct portions.

A multi-use arena with 1,000 bleacher seats will be able to handle high school basketball and volleyball games, graduations and dances, Viguerie said.

The other portion will have two 3,500-square-foot rooms that can accommodate functions such as formal banquets and other types of gatherings. The rooms can be used separately or converted into one space, Viguerie explained.

He said the building will have a full-service kitchen and camper hookups.

Assumption School Superintendent Earl “Tibby” Martinez said the School Board has an agreement with the Police Jury to use the building.

In exchange, the parish is tying the building into the school system’s sewer system and will allow people using the community center to park in the high school parking lot when the lot is available, he said.

Martinez noted the arena will allow Assumption High to host state playoff games in basketball and volleyball and hold its graduations there. He said seniors in past few years have chosen ceremonies in Thibodaux rather than the outdoor stadium in Napoleonville.

“It’s win-win situation, I think, for both of us,” Martinez said.