By Donna Thornton, The Gadsden Times
The City of Gadsden opened the doors Tuesday on a long-awaited replacement for the East Gadsden Community Center that had served the city since at least the 1960s.
The new 3,100 square-foot facility has a "soft opening" this week, Manager Carla Wilson said, but will be open full force next week.
People are invited to shoot hoops in the gym, or walk the indoor walking track, play games (ranging from dominoes and cards to ping-pong or pool), exercise, lift weights, make use of the full kitchen facilities, hold meetings and much more.
City Council member Deverick Williams said he recalled the $5.5 million project grew out of a conversation he had with Mayor Sherman Guyton, when he asked what the city was going to do about its aging community centers.
That was in 2011, he said. It's taken a long time and the support of the entire council to see the project through.
Contractor issues and COVID-19 played roles in delaying the project.
"I couldn't be prouder," Williams said, of the finished product. It involved the work of the contractors, he said, and "great work" from the city's Engineering, Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments.
Council President Cynthia Toles, like Williams, thanked the community for its patience on the project. She thanked them, too, for being protective of the building even before it opened. The previous East Gadsden Community Center was one of the most well-used centers in the city, Toles said, with some people coming daily to play games.
She recalled that City Engineer Heath Williamson didn't believe her when she said there used to be a swimming pool. He found there had been, and it had been filled in. To make the project work, it had to be removed so water would drain. Otherwise, the pool would have just held any water, Williamson said.
The people who came out Tuesday for the ribbon cutting were impressed with the facility.
"This is going to bring some people in," Ed Jones said while taking a moment to shoot baskets in the gym.
Others checked out the indoor walking track. "They say it takes 17 laps to make a mile," one woman said.
Wilson was excited about the opening. "I'm looking so forward to getting to know the people of the community," she said. Ebony Malone is assistant manager at the center; Wilson said Malone's up on all the technical aspects of the center, with its integrated sound and video systems.
Jim Prucnal was one of those on hand for the ribbon-cutting. He remembered attending the ribbon cutting for the old center. "They made us wait till they cut the ribbon before we could go in," he said. "I was one of the first kids to run in there."
East Gadsden resident Kathy Vaughn said she was pleased to see the center complete and open. "It's going to be great for the kids and for the grownups," she said.
Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or email@example.com.