Tuesday, March 31, 2015

TOP STORY >> Community Center marks its 20th year

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Community Center is celebrating its 20-year milestone from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11, with free admission all day.

There will be fitness classes, aquatic classes, kids activities, inflatables, music, refreshments and free T-shirts for the first 100 people.

Membership fees will be 20 percent off for six-month and one-year contracts.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said the community center is, “the jewel of the community. It has brought people from all around the region.”

Former Mayor Tommy Swaim said, “I think it’s been a great asset with the community, and I’m pleased with success of it.”

The $4 million community center opened April 10, 1995. Plans for the community center started rolling in 1992 with then-direction of parks director Annabelle Davis and the parks commission, led by Pat Bond.

“They did a lot of hard work,” said aquatics manager Diane Novotny, who has been with community center since it opened.

A special election was held and Jacksonville voters passed a one-cent sales tax to support the facility. At the same time, the millage rate on personal property taxes was reduced from five mills to two mills.

“We didn’t have to borrow money or sell bonds. We were able use the new incoming sales tax money to pay it off,” Swaim said.

He is proud that the community center stays busy.

“It has been used to recruit people and businesses to come to Jacksonville,” Swaim added.

Fletcher said it holds meetings that are scheduled for several days in a row, bringing in money, especially when visitors buy food here and stay at local hotels. Many cities have used the Jacksonville Community Center as a model in the construction of their own, he added.

Swaim said, at the time it was built, the center was one of the larger facilities in the area.

“It was built to serve the community,” Novotny said

Novotny said, before, people would have to go to Little Rock to swim at an indoor community pool.

She said plans for the community center at the time it was built were for the pool to have a hydraulic floor that raised and lowered its depth plus a slide. Four racquetball courts and small classrooms were also planned.

The community center banquet rooms have been used for town hall meetings, public education and college graduations. They are booked for weddings, receptions, chamber of commerce and air base functions. During the year, the center holds a coin, stamp, book and paper show. It has holiday craft sales, train shows, gem and mineral shows and is an election polling site.

Fletcher said the center could use larger meeting rooms.

Programs manager Marlo Jackson said the number of programs and attendance has increased over the years. The aquatics programs have always been popular.

“We are always looking for programs that will do more for the community,” Jackson said.

Novotny said the center tries to get the whole community involved, not just specific groups. “We are very diverse, with all ages, races, religions and cultures. We can adapt for people hard of hearing to using a seeing-eye dog,” she said.

While step aerobics and kickboxing have faded in popularity over the last 20 years, other programs have sprung up, like Zumba, fitness camps and Silver Sneakers program for seniors.

The community center also has a basketball and volleyball court, two racquetball courts, an indoor track, an outdoor track, a fitness mezzanine, aerobics rooms, a skate park and a farmer’s market pavilion.