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Room to play
GBRC Activity Center opens
new kl kern
Kayleen Kern, left, and Delores Keegan enjoy the reception at the new GBRC Activity Center. The complex is equipped with a kitchen next to the gym. - photo by KAREN LA PIERRE Great Bend Tribune

The Great Bend Recreation Commission on Friday unveiled its new GBRC Activity Center at 18th and Adams St., with an open house. That was followed by a dance for Great Bend Middle School students, one of the first big events at the facility.

Executive Director Diann Henderson, her staff and members of her board of directors gave tours of the new Activity Center, built on the grounds of the former Morrison Elementary School.

Comments overheard included, "It’s absolutely beautiful"; "Thank you for such a wonderful place"; and "It sure doesn’t look like Morrison School." In fact, Great Bend Unified School District 428 gave the property to the Recreation Commission and razed the school, leaving only a gymnasium and restrooms that were later additions to the Morrison building. However, those restrooms retain a bit of the former school; although everything looks new, the wall tiles, ceramic floor tiles and all of the porcelain fixtures were refurbished and used. "We went ‘green,’ by recycling what we could," Henderson said.

GBMS students weren’t the first community members to put the new facility to use. Fitness classes moved there last Monday. For years, exercise classes have met in GBRC’s most outdated property, at 1917 17th St. Now that facility is closed and the board will need to decide what to do with it, Henderson said.

The Activity Center’s exercise room is a big improvement, said Kayleen Kern, a Great Bend resident enrolled in the STEPS Class for senior citizens. "This facility is so far improved over the one on 17th St.," she said. There’s more room, and the maple floor was designed for exercise, with an added cushioned layer between it and the concrete base.

The gym also has a wooden sports floor; it can handle a regulation basketball game or it can be partitioned into two practice areas, GBRC board member Diana Dawson pointed out. With more gym spaces available in the school district, tight scheduling will be alleviated, and practices can run longer.

There’s a small kitchen just off the gym, with a window into that area so it can double as a place for concessions.

While it will be used by the entire community, staff noted that the Activity Center will be more convenient in particular for people who live in the Morrison neighborhood. During cold weather, people will have one more warm place to walk in the mornings, because the gym will be open to walkers when it’s not being used for a scheduled purpose.

The gym at the Municipal Auditorium at Lakin and Williams will still be available as well.

Paul Martin, who directs the annual GBRC children’s play every summer, said play rehearsals will move from the downtown Auditorium to the new gym. There’s no stage, but there is air conditioning, which he considers a big improvement.

A classroom in the new center has everything needed for giving a Stop ‘N Learn presentation or teaching a craft. There are adjustable lights, a flat-screen television, furniture and lots of storage space, plus a sink and microwave oven.

The lobby has tables and chairs, so parents waiting to pick their kids up after an event will have a place to visit, and there’s also another TV there.

Now that the GBRC Activity Center is in use, the next step is to begin a three-phase landscaping project. The master plan, with playground equipment, is on display at the facility. On Monday, the city will begin planting trees on the grounds, Henderson said.