Fort Wayne parks community center evolves with downtown
By Mary Anne Gates | The News-Sentinel
The Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Community Center, 233 W. Main St., a downtown landmark, is celebrating 40 years while newly constructed or renovated buildings rise up around it. The changing urban skyline and an ever-increasing number of people making their home in the heart of the city offers an opportunity to interact with the long-time, centrally located gathering place.
Meanwhile, the center considers adding programs and activities of interest to their new neighbors and looks for ways to continue inviting everyone into the popular facility.
“The new living spaces are attracting a majority of the younger generation,” said Joel Bowerman, center assistant manager. “Our goal is to try to grab those people and get them in here. We would like to make that connection by offering programs throughout the evening hours, whenever it is convenient for them. We want to try and build that bridge ... We are hoping to gear our programming toward the interests of people between the ages of 20 and 40 years old.”
The spacious, non-smoking, well-lighted, air-conditioned center features a variety of spaces for exercise, games or classes.
“With the way downtown is growing, we are constantly getting new people inside our doors to participate. Probably two or three people a week. Some have recently moved here or have lived here their whole lives and have never been to the community center,” Bowerman said.
Additionally, the center is available for receptions, parties, meetings, dances and other special events.
Patti Davis, community center manager, said, “I see the community center as being a big recreation place for people to come down and enjoy. (They can) try their hand at shuffleboard and the different activities and programs. We do a lot of different things and create classes around what people want.”
Its current offerings include arts and crafts activities, educational programs and an extensive exercise program, Davis said.
Educational programs include Civil War-focused and foreign language classes, as well as, art and music appreciation classes. Additionally, computer classes are offered, she said.
Other scheduled monthly offerings include legal counsel services; free hearing screenings and foot care programs. Also, it is not unusual to find people who drop in to play table tennis or a variety of card games including bridge, pinochle, euchre or hand and foot.
Don Mayers, 85, a long-time table tennis player, said “I have been coming down here for 15 years. I have fun with these guys and enjoy the people.”
In recognition of the 40th anniversary the community center is offering free admission to drop-in programs throughout 2017 on days that end with a four or a zero after a one-time purchase of a 40th anniversary commemorative key chain for $5.
Free admission to drop-in programs during June with the purchase of a key chain are June 4, 10, 14, 20, 24 and 30.
Normally, the drop-in admission is $1.
“It's a way of thanking our patrons that have been so loyal over the years, to say thank you and that we appreciate them coming down here and making memories,” Bowerman said.
Patrons are greeted by an army of volunteers and a small staff working together presenting classes and creating a welcoming atmosphere.
“We rely heavily on 175 volunteers to help us out,” Davis said.
“Even though the main emphasis is during the day with programming for older adults, we do have kids classes as well as adult classes. Basically, we have participants from 18-month-old toddlers to seniors. We do a lot of what we call adult/child activity craft classes. So, there is that one-on-one attention of an adult working with a child. They work together on the different activities we lead,” she said.
Another big attraction presented by the community center is the annual Senior Games. Open to people 50 years and older. This year 32 fun and challenging sports and games are scheduled to be offered at various locations throughout the city June 5-22.
Senior game activities include Wii bowling, pickleball, billiards, golf, cornhole, bocce ball and miniature golf.
“We have activities for everybody. Some people are competitive and some are just here to have fun and meet others. It's a great three weeks. We have so much fun,” Davis said.