Tallmadge — The city marked the 10th anniversary of the Tallmadge Recreation Center last week with a two-day celebration.
On Feb. 13, all members, regardless of membership level, were permitted to participate in any exercise class for free, and children were invited to burn off extra energy with an indoor fun run.
The next day, the festivities continued with a re-enactment of the original ceremonial ribbon cutting and cake and coffee all day for those who visited the facility.
“Tallmadge Recreation Center has become, in my opinion, one of the main focal points for our community. It’s a gathering place for residents to not only exercise but also to attend various recreation programs and special community events for the entire family,” said David Cooper, manager of parks and recreation, who witnessed both the fifth and 10 anniversaries.
In the beginning
The Tallmadge Recreation Center officially opened its doors Feb. 14, 2004, to a crowd of about 2,000 members and city residents.
The estimated $5.5 million facility, which was built with about $1 million in donations from area businesses and residents, features an indoor track, soccer field, wooden-floor basketball court, exercise equipment, concession area, children’s playground and party room.
For the two weeks leading to the grand opening Feb. 28 and 29, 2004, the Rec Center offered free trial memberships.
The big event featured appearances from local celebrities, including Cleveland Force Goalie Otto Orf, the new University of Akron Football coaching staff, and Tallmadge resident and New York Yankee Jason Stephens.
Attendees also participated in aerobics classes, basketball clinics, martial arts programs and watched a performance of the Tallmadge High School cheerleaders and dance team.
According to Cooper, when the facility opened, city officials hoped it would attract 2,000 paid members. Kline said that number of members would’ve brought in enough revenue to pay for the facility’s day-to-day operations, and any additional would’ve been a bonus.
Over the years
In an attempt to make better use of space on the upper level of the Rec Center, the city spent about $500,000 on improvements in 2008. Racquetball courts and two rows of new treadmills and elliptical equipment were added, and new stadium-style seating replaced bleachers at the indoor soccer field and basketball court.
The facility now has a total of 100 pieces of cardiovascular and strength training equipment.
The city plans to spend nearly $200,000 on three improvement projects this year: new turf on the indoor soccer field, spinning bikes so that classes can be offered and easy-to-clean rubber composite flooring for the strength training section of the upper level fitness area, Cooper said.
He attributes the success of the Rec Center to its dedicated staff of three full-time and 65 part-time employees who provide quality fitness, wellness, sports and cultural art programming, as well as special events.
“We also must applaud the vision of former Mayor Chris Grimm and current Mayor Dave Kline, as well as the members of Tallmadge City Council, for recognizing the need for such a facility and taking the bold initiative to fund and build the Recreation Center,” Cooper said.
But the key factor in the facility’s success is the support from those who live and work in Tallmadge. Over the past five years, membership has grown, and last year, the facility reached an all-time high for memberships at about 5,000 with a total of more than 270,000 visits, Cooper said.
“We never imagined we’d go up to 5,000 members,” Kline said.
The lower prices the city offers to residents, along with a clean, safe facility, are also reasons the Rec Center has been thriving, he added.
“It is incredible how much we have changed and grown just in the past five years alone in terms of the varied programs that we offer to the community as well as our total membership,” Cooper said. “Many people who come in for the first time are very surprised to learn that the facility is now 10 years old. I believe that is because the facility was so well designed, and we do our best to keep it mechanically sound and clean.”
Cooper said over the past five years, the Rec Center has made changes to its operations and programming so that it can expand its offerings outside of fitness and sports.
It also is continuing to partner with outside organizations, including the Girl Scout Council, Tallmadge City Schools, Summit County Metro Parks and the Summa Health Systems Rehab Clinic, to offer members even more programming and services at more facilities.
The Silver Sneakers program that gives senior citizens free memberships to exercise facilities through select health insurance companies is now one of the top revenue streams for the Rec Center. The program that seeks to improve the physical and mental well being of senior citizens through exercise and social activities has generated in the neighborhood of $250,000 of the slightly more than $1 million of total revenue in 2013 alone, according to Kline. About 2,200 senior citizens — the most in the history of the program — use their Silver Sneakers memberships at the Rec Center.
General membership and fees collected from youth and adult sports leagues also are large revenue producers, he said.
Kline said the facility has very much exceeded the city’s expectations it originally had for its success.
“I’m extremely pleased with the way the Rec Center has been managed and how it’s been operated over the last 10 years. I think it’s been an excellent facility,” he said.
He sees the facility maintaining its current number of memberships, or adding slightly more so that the building doesn’t become too crowded, and continuing to be a venue at which senior citizens can use their Silver Sneakers memberships in the future. He also would like to add more programming for younger members.
One idea the city has come up with through brainstorming is building a bridge over the lobby in the front entrance that would provide space for an expansion of the exercise area, but Kline said the project isn’t included in the city’s 2014 budget.
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