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Center expands in its rebirth

It was nothing but a gymnasium and a couple of offices.

Very few programs went on under the leaky roof of the 20-year-old building: basketball, volleyball, summer camp, a couple of other events here and there.

But the new $2.3-million Safety Harbor Community Center is nearly triple the size and has an array of new programs, such as "strollercise," indoor soccer and a preschool program. The new community center is scheduled to open at noon on Nov. 15.

"I think it's a great improvement over the old one," said Tom Ronald, director of leisure services. "The community is really going to enjoy utilizing this facility. The community center has grown with the community."

The community center, which was built in 1982, was closed for more than a year while workers renovated it and added about 16,000-square-feet.

It now boasts two gyms, an arts and crafts and preschool room, a multipurpose room, a conference room and a teen room equipped with a stereo and computer.

"There's a lot more for everybody to do here," said Shannon Liss, teen program coordinator. "Teenagers have a place to go after school, use a computer if they don't have one at home, meet friends."

Since the community center closed last year, the city has run programs from the Rigsby Recreation Center and Long Center in Clearwater. The afterschool program was relocated to the First Presbyterian Church and outdoor activities were moved to Safety Harbor City Park.

But even before then, the community center suffered from a lack of space. Some basketball games were played at area schools, and other programs operated out of Rigsby and Long.

"We needed to expand it, because it wasn't keeping up with the demand for services," Commissioner Neil Brickfield said. "I think it looks terrific. I think this is going to be a point of pride for the whole community."

Tim Sattinger, the athletic coordinator, spent Tuesday afternoon coming up with a catchy slogan to attract sign-ups for coed flag football.

"Ladies, show your game," he said. "Footballs will be flying over your head in Safety Harbor. Kickoff is this spring."

There's also talk of an Irish dancing class and a Weight Watchers group.

Kelliann Gerlach, recreation supervisor, said she's always looking for ideas.

"If there's something we're not offering that they want, they should let us know," she said.