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Largo Community Center prepares for move to new building

LARGO — Craig Dolan's favorite memory as recreation program supervisor at the Largo Community Center is performing in the Broadway Follies in July.

"All the Community Center's male staff dressed in drag, including yours truly," he said. "It was hilarious.''

For Lisa Rose, who attends the Saturday night Savoy Swing Dances at the center, her favorite memory is the first time she and her husband, Alby Lanser, took to the dance floor together.

"It was right here in the auditorium,'' said Rose, 47. "We'll always remember this old building as the place we had our first swing dance.''

As for Ron Kennedy, he gets choked up just thinking about the past. His wife, Debbie Kennedy, is director of the Tutterow Dancers, which operates at the Community Center.

"This is the place where I saw my wife dance for the first time,'' said the 44-year-old. "We had just started dating, and she was about 17. I started watching her dance, and I was gone. In love with her forever.''

It is a time of both excitement and nostalgia at the Community Center, 65 Fourth St. NW. In 10 weeks, the 38-year-old building will close and the staff will begin a monthlong move into a new, $10 million facility at 400 Alternate Keene Road.

The move will be like saying goodbye to an old friend, Dolan said.

"A true community center is a building that encompasses all aspects of life and it hosts activities that bring together the whole community of all ages," he said. "This place has definitely done that.''

Eon Pereira, a self-proclaimed Tutterow Dance dad, agrees. He has made many friends over the years waiting for his daughter, Gracie, during her Saturday jazz and tap lessons.

"If these walls could talk, they'd tell stories of adventure, friendship, growth, understanding,'' said Pereira, 44. "But now it's going to be a new era with new memories, I guess.''

The city plans to demolish the building early next year and sell the land as part of the project to redevelop downtown, according to Henry Schubert, Largo's assistant city manager.

"We hope to encourage quality development in the downtown, but we want to minimize any impact on neighbors who live in single-family dwellings near the Community Center as well,'' Schubert said.

Tom David, a Largo resident who lives four blocks south of the Community Center, hopes the transition will be a swift one. David, 78, first started visiting the Community Center after his wife died seven years ago.

"I've come in and seen many shows here,'' he said. "I just hope this block fills up because I don't want crime to come in, but otherwise, I'll go to the new place. It's just down the street.''

Bob Ciarlone, director of the center's Tuesday Karaoke Sing-a-long, says he's glad to have a few more weeks in the old place, although he's eager for more room.

"The center has seen a lot through the years,'' said Ciarlone, 72. "I think in December when it's time to play my last song, it will have to be something like Thanks for the Memories.

"I think Bob Hope will do it right.''

Until Dec. 10, Dolan plans on operating as usual, with the final special event planned Dec. 2, the Adult and Senior Talent Show.

The new center is scheduled to open Jan. 10.

From the old …

Built: 1972

Where: 65 Fourth St. NW

Features: The 20,000-square-foot facility has an auditorium with stage and sound system. The auditorium is 80 by 60 feet, with a capacity of 630 seats theater style, 350 seats banquet style, or 310 seats banquet setup with dance floor.

… to the new

Built: Under construction. Scheduled to open Jan. 10.

Where: 400 Alternate Keene Road

Features: The 30,000-square-foot state-of-the art complex will have multiple dance studios, a ballroom, indoor and outdoor lounges, and game rooms.

Largo Community Center prepares for move to new building 09/28/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 3:55pm]
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