Children and seniors will be most affected by the closing of Abilene’s Cesar Chavez Recreation Center at 1002 Cherry Street.
City officials recently decided it is not practical to spend an estimated $500,000 on repairs to the facility – which was built in the 70s and is struggling with severe foundation issues and outdated bathrooms. Programs at the facility will be gradually phased out and the center will be officially closed in mid-August.
“We like being here and we're sad that the building is being closed,” Senior Carolyn Wiggins said.
Even though the city will continue to provide seniors with rides to other facilities once the senior programs end on May 30th, Wiggins said she is not sure whether she will be able to move to another facility since the Chavez Center bears an emotional meaning for her. She worked at the center for 10 years and has participated in center events for several years more.
“We can go to other centers, but they aren't quite like this one -- small and friendly,” Wiggins said. “Some of the group will probably go to other centers.”
James Childers, Abilene’s director of community services, said the move to close the center was an obvious business decision but a tough personal decision.
The center is located along an Abilene Independent School District bus route and the school district buses can provide a free ride for many Thomas Elementary students to attend an after school program at the Chavez Center. Once the center closes, however, that luxury will no longer be available.
“Those kids are welcome at any other recreation facilities, but the parents are going to have to provide transportation to there,” Childers said.
The Chavez Center also provides a spacious gym for Locust Early Head Start children who do not currently have a gym.
“That's disappointing,” AISD Spokesman Phil Ashby said. “But the good news is in two years, we're consolidating our early childhood centers at Long Elementary and it has a gym…so it's a temporary problem and something that we'll just have to adjust and we're looking at our options right now on how to serve our kids -- our 4-year-old kids -- with PE over the next couple of years.”
The Chavez Center will accommodate children until the end of the school year and hold three summer camps. Its doors will close August 18 and all equipment will be removed and all employees will be re-located to other city facilities.