BENTON TOWNSHIP — Less than a year after Whirlpool Corp. announced plans to build an on-site child care facility, the company is set to open it to the public.

Whirlpool executives and employees celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday outside the new child care facility that has been named “The Eddy.”

The center, at 1900 Paw Paw Ave. in Benton Township, is now part of Lakeview Campus – also the home to Whirlpool Corp.’s global headquarters.

“In 108 years, we’ve come a long way. We can only be the best company if we attract the best people,” said Whirlpool Chairman and CEO Marc Bitzer. “We would not be able to attract the best people if we don’t offer child care. …Once you walk through the building, you’ll feel like a kid again.”

It consists of 15 classrooms with a maximum capacity for 156 children. One of those classrooms will be used for learning adventures, which is dedicated to extracurriculars like cooking classes and STEM programming.

The Eddy officially opens Sept. 3 to children, ages 6 weeks to 6 years, of Whirlpool employees. The Eddy has 24 full-time employees, but there is potential to add more once the center is at full capacity.

The center was built with an emphasis on environmentally-friendly materials, and the building and playground were designed to preserve almost all of the mature oak trees on the lot.

One of the unique features of the center’s design is how everything has been scaled down to a kid-friendly size – from the low windows and bathrooms/classroom sinks to the “kid door” in the atrium area.

The child care facility is about 22,000 square feet, accompanied by an outdoor play area with a soccer and garden area, and separate wings based on age.

Brooke Boone, director of The Eddy, said the center meets the needs of children and is an ideal environment for their learning and growth.

“Each classroom is developmentally appropriate for each age group,” Boone said. “When we were looking at developing a classroom, our main focus was safety.”

The center will offer a full-time program with breakfast, lunch and snacks provided. Additional programs will be determined according to employee needs.

Employees are encouraged to observe class time, participate in special outings and events, and nurse in one of two private mother’s rooms.

KinderCare, an Oregon-based organization, was selected as the care provider for the facility.

The name, “The Eddy” was submitted and chosen by popular vote among Whirlpool employees. In nature, an eddy is considered a small portion of a whirlpool.

“It’s the beginning part of a whirlpool,” Boone said. “It goes along with what we’re doing here. We’re setting a foundation for the kids that we’re providing care for. They’re going to be a small part of Whirlpool.”

The project gained momentum after the appliance maker conducted a survey to understand the child care needs of its employees. The survey found there was a desire among employees’ families for on-site child care.

Whirlpool received a 12-year tax abatement for The Eddy when Benton Township trustees approved the tax break in an October 2018 meeting.

Several of the township board members were present for the ceremony Thursday, including Supervisor Kevin White.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have this facility here,” White said. “We want to thank them for continuing to improve the lives of their employees as well as the entire community.”

Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski