Dartmouth residents will be without the popular Sportsplex for the next year and a half. After years of planning, the building is getting a major facelift, beginning next week.

The Sportsplex originally opened in 1982 and it is beginning to show its age.

"The buildings old and tired, we don't offer some of the things the community is really crying out for now, like a gymnasium, like youth sports," says general manager Max Chauvin.

Whether it's swimming, skating, fitness or just a place to grab a coffee, the Dartmouth Sportsplex has been a mainstay of its community for 35 years.

"We’ve been coming here for almost 20 years,” says Janet MacLennan. “Our daughter used to come with us, and we sometimes will bring our grandchildren on a guest pass for swimming, and so on."

Planned changes include a new gymnasium with two basketball courts, a new fitness centre, dance studio and additions to the swimming pool, including improvements to make the pool more accommodating to people with mobility issues.

"There are a lot of people that rely on the Sportsplex, I know the swimming teams in particular, it has a significant impact on them, in terms of disruption and financial impact on the team," says Dartmouth councilor Sam Austin.

City staff estimated a cost of $20-million for the renovations, but the winning bid was in the $24 million dollar range.

"They had four people bid on the project and all four were within a million dollars of each other,” says Austin. “When you're faced with that kind of thing, to me, it says the estimate was a bit optimistic."

For the dozens of full time and seasonal employees, the renovations mean they will need to find new jobs for the next year and a half.

"We will, when we reopen, do a hiring from the current employees who stayed before we go out to the public and do a mass call, so those people who want to come back and stay involved in the community we have here will have that opportunity," says Chauvin.

The only part of the Sportsplex that won't be closed for renovations is the hockey rink, which is expected to reopen in September with a limited seating capacity. The rest of the Sportsplex is expected to reopen in September of 2018.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Allan April