New Johnson City community center buzzing with activity

Gary B. Gray • Feb 25, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Johnson City’s Memorial Park Community Center was operating on all cylinders this week, living up to its billing as a multi-generational facility by offering a wide range of activities for the young and old, from peaceful fireside relaxation to bobbing and splashing pool fun to serious billiards action.

The new $15 million, 67,000-square-foot recreation center was christened Dec. 8, becoming the city’s first recreational structure with such girth and generous offerings. Virtually every area of the center was alive Friday; a testament of sorts to the promise of its purpose.

By the way, the Blue Plate Special was barbecue pork with baked beans and a roll.

“We are excited about the turnout at the building,” said Roger Blakeley, Parks and Recreation Department director. “It’s more successful than we ever thought it would be. Programs are growing. We’ve had 160 new seniors added, and these are seniors who were not members at the old Seniors’ Center. The Zumba class began in the aerobics room, but we’ve had to move it to the gym.”

Amanda Hollifield, the center’s operations manager, said one of the more popular programs, “Home School,” also is rapidly expanding.

“This is a group of children who are not in Washington County or Johnson City schools,” she said. “About 20 between the ages of 6 and 12 are coming every Tuesday and Thursday. There are also a lot of preschool kids participating in activities here.”

So what about the pool?

“It’s full,” she said. “Saturdays’ open swim is booming. From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., we get about 50 people. Then there’s ‘Angel Fish,’ a time in the therapy pool where people with disabilities can come in and get in the warm water. We’re trying to target the people who are not comfortable getting in a pool with a bunch of people.”

Meanwhile, the folks using the billiards room seem to feel right at home. The room on Friday was packed, and Blakeley and Hollifield said a lot more people, including youngsters, are wanting to, and getting to, take their turns at the tables.

Ping Pong also is a growing activity. Three new tables buzzed with activity Friday, and Blakeley said the MPCC staff is considering the addition of three tables.

Pickleball anyone?

Pickleball player Jane Treadway said Friday while still tightly gripping her Pickleball paddle that it is a fun game akin to a mix of tennis and badminton. The game is played on a badminton court with the net lowered to 34 inches at the center. It is played with a perforated plastic baseball (similar to a whiffle ball) and wood or composite paddles. It is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.

Seniors are loving this one.

Meanwhile, the Silver Sneakers is growing by leaps and bounds — pun intended.

Hollified also said registration is under way for a new offering: a spring co-ed volleyball league.

Those wanting to participate have only until Wednesday to register. The season starts March 5. Teams can have up to 15 players on their rosters, but there must be at least four women on the team with two playing at all times.

Games will be played on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6-9. Registration forms are available at the center’s recreation desk. Entry fees are $100 per team. For more information, call 461-4850 or 461-4851.

The center hours are 7 a.m. until 9 p.m, Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sunday. Pool hours are 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Memorial Park Community Center is located at 510 Bert St. For more information, call 434-5750.

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