Lower Richland residents cheer new activity center

jholleman@thestate.comJuly 1, 2013 

Martha Rogers walked into the exercise room Monday at the new Garners Ferry Adult Activity Center, and she started considering the possibilities.

She’ll begin working out at the center. She’ll make new friends and spend more time with old ones. She’ll get rid of the exercise equipment she hasn’t been using much in her home, opening up space for another use.

“This is great,” Rogers said of the shiny treadmills, stationary bikes and weight machines. “I’d use these more. It’s not just that they’re more modern (than what she has at home), it’s having the company. It makes you want to use it because it’s a meeting place.”

Rogers was typical of the standing-room-only crowd at Monday’s grand opening of the 16,000-square-foot center. They would say “oooh” or “wow” when they walked into the exercise room, quickly followed by, “It’s about time.”

A community center at the Garners Ferry Complex had been on the Richland County Recreation Commission’s list of bond projects approved in 1998. It was at the bottom of the list, however, and the $12 million in funds ran out. The park eventually opened with only some athletic fields.

The commission made the Garners Road facility a priority in its list of projects under a $50 million bond improved in 2008. But while several smaller projects were completed, the Garners Ferry faithful waited. When the building seemed almost ready to open last year, vandals destroyed the air conditioning units, further delaying its opening.

Then the commission declared it didn’t have the operating funds to open the center. Finally last month, the county auditor announced that the tax base for the county had grown enough to provide the extra money to run the center in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Finally, on Monday, the center at 8620 Garners Ferry Road officially opened its doors, and hundreds of community residents showed up to celebrate.

“It’s been a long time coming, but finally we have something to be proud of,” said county councilman Norman Jackson.

“This is putting the substance where the rhetoric used to be,” said state Sen. Darrell Jackson.

The wait might have resulted in a better facility. Rather than building a simple senior center, the commission decided to duplicate its successful Adult Activity Center on Parklane Road. The building has a large ballroom/banquet facility suitable for community meetings but also available for party rental.

There are several smaller classrooms, a carpeted room suitable for dance classes and the expansive exercise room. Classes generally require a minimal fee.

Attached to the main building is a technology center, where people can take computer classes or use the 23 computers on their own for free. Based on the commission’s other technology center on Parklane, users will find it less crowded and easier to use than most library computer centers.

Because there are other gyms nearby dominated by young users, the adult activity centers are open to ages 21 and older. The technology center is open to those 16 and older.

Those at the event Monday insist the facility will get plenty of use. They’ve been waiting, somewhat patiently.

“We’ve been watching (the construction) and waiting,” said Barbara Gilley, who lives nearby. “I kept driving by and wondering, when are they going to open?

“Whenever they get the exercise schedule up, I’ll be here. And Zumba, I want to do Zumba.”

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