The Giorgetti files

So this one is about the “I hope the other farmer’s cow dies soon” folks in the city.

We need a new rec center, badly. The old one, Dana, was a dilapidated school, run down after a century of hard use, and never designed to be anything but a neighborhood elementary, complete with empty, dingy classrooms that served as meeting spaces, and an undersized gym with a leaky roof.

The city came forward with a proposal to build a center at Giorgetti Park, near Pine Hill Park, with its 16 miles of walking trails, and at the northern terminus of the (hopefully) soon-to-be-built creek path.

There’s a metal-shed hockey rink there now, which in the summer turns into a skate park.

The proposal was to bond $3.9 million to enhance and renovate the rink, particularly adding an upper floor to the front end of the building that is now waste space, above the entrance rooms. The chief enhancement would have been a steel-and-fabric bubble big enough to hold three basketball courts.

Many, many objections were raised … almost none of which had any basis in reality, and the measure failed on a revote.

Most recently, there’s been a proposal to build or renovate smaller spaces around the city, but that’s nonsensical:

  • Building three gyms gives you three places to play basketball, it doesn’t give you a big, flexible, fieldhouse space that can house three basketball courts or be turned into a 3/4 size field hockey / lacrosse / indoor soccer / Ultimate Frisbee / flag football field. Plus it forces you to build, staff and maintain three physical plants, which includes heating three separate structures instead of one, clearing three parking lots in the winter, etc., etc.
  • There are other, alternative recreation areas in other parts of the city, whether at White’s Pool in the southeast or Monsignor Connor Park in the southwest. It’s no more onerous to drive from Meadow and Convent to Preville and Crescent than the other way around.
  • In addition to being adjacent to Pine Hill Park, to the arena and sports fields already at Giorgetti, and near Northwest School, which has the highest percentage of needy kids in the city, Giorgetti has a dedicated, charitably donated fund to defray construction costs and cover the maintenance of a building there. Build it anywhere else and that money isn’t available.

So assume, for the moment, that Giorgetti is the right place to build a new rec center. What to build that might pass, comfortably? The city has meeting spaces. The rec department can host everything from the chess club to Bonebuilders in a smaller, existing space. Those programs can even be spread around the city. And while it would be less accessible for staff who might have to drive back and forth between their offices and the center, it’s not impossible. So we should set aside, at least for now, the renovations that would add second-floor space to the existing arena, and put the bubble back on the ballot. A wild guess says that might cut half a million dollars from the budget.

A $3.4 million dollar recreation-only structure that would provide a kind of space not available anywhere else in the county ought to pass, even given the efforts of the Russian farmers in the city.

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