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Columbus Recommends Closing 11 Recreation Centers

The Columbus Recreation and Parks department has released its list of Rec. centers it plans to close. Come the beginning of the year it will close eleven centers. The closings come as the city tries to close an $83 million budget shortfall.

The rec and parks department's vision statement reads in part "Our vision is to provide leisure opportunities for all " Come the new year, those leisure opportunities will shrink. Three weeks after Mayor Coleman announced a 5 and a half million dollar cut to the Rec and Parks budget, director Alan McKnight read the list of the centers to close.. COLUMBUS RECREATION CENTERS TO CLOSE: Barack, 590 Woodrown

Feddersen, 3911 Dresden St.

Glenwood, 1925 W. Broad St.

Holton, 303 N. Eureka Ave.

Indian Mound, 3901 Parsons Ave.

Krumm, 854 Alton Ave.

Martin Janis, 600 East 11th Ave.

Milo Grogan, 862 E. 2nd Ave.

Sawyer, 1056 Atcheson St.

Sullivant Garden, 755 Renick St.

Tuttle, 240 W. Oakland Ave

Reduced Hours: Douglas, 1250 Windsor Ave.

The city will close three additional swimming pools next summer. The department previously announced it would close the Golden Hobby Shop and the Columbus Youth Performing Arts Center. 51 parks employees will lose their jobs.

But 18 centers will remain open and McNight says the parks department chose the winners based on demographics, accessibility, participation, programs and utilization by outside agencies. "Our overall goal it to to be able to serve as many Columbus residents as possible with as wide a range of programs as we can."

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman dropped in on the announcement and said the city has no choice but to close the centers.. he says the economic downturn is one of the biggest challenges the city has ever faced. "We do not want to do this but it is what we must do, we do not have a choice."

One of the center's set to close is the martin Janis senior center. The Brown Pyramid center on the southern edge of the state fairgrounds was opened by Governor Jim Rhodes. It features exercise and arts programs for seniors.

Josephine Harris, wearing a paint stained apron was just finishing some cake in the Janis cafeteria. She has painted at the center once a week for nine years and wonders why it must close. "The seniors have paid in all of their life they have a place to develop their creative juices.. that's just something you don't do," Harris said.

Donna Fenwick lives nearby the center. She worries what the closing will mean to the stability of her neighborhood. "More and more people are buying homes up near hear and it's a shame that this won't be here for them and the city," said Fenwick.

The closings are the most severe cuts the rec and parks department has seen ..but not the first. The department has seen a 42% reduction in its budget and lost 143 employees since 2000.

Still Director Alan McNight hopes the closings are only temporary. The city will maintain the buildings and McNight says he hopes they can reopen in a year or two. Meanwhile other centers will try to pick up the slack.

The 11 centers programs will cease on January 1st but the gyms and re-rooms will remain open as drop in centers until City Council finalizes the budget - likely in Feburary.

Mike Thompson spends much of his time correcting people who mispronounce the name of his hometown – Worcester, Massachusetts. Mike studied broadcast journalism at Syracuse University when he was not running in circles – as a distance runner on the SU track team.