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‘Off and running’
GBRC gears up for busy summer months
KCAC Softball Tournament
Teams compete for the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference softball title last weekend at the Great Bend Sports Complex. The KCAC tournaments were the first of several tournaments across several sports the City of Great Bend and GBRC will host throughout the summer. - photo by BY DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

As the end of school nears, temperatures creep upward and spring takes hold, the staff at the Great Bend Recreation Commission are gearing up for a busy summer.

At Monday’s GBRC board meeting, several department directors advised the board of rapidly filling summer calendars and expressed excitement at being able to provide a full calendar of activities this year after a 2020 marked by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Enrichment and leisure activities

Enrichment and Activity Center Director Garet Fitzpatrick, for example, told the board that through the months of June and July, not including Sundays and the July 4 weekend, the Activity Center has 395 leisure class sessions lined up, or an average of more than eight sessions for each day the Activity Center is open, not including the regular fitness classes held there.

Fitzpatrick said his department is busy taking inventory of current stock and getting supplies ordered. The Rec is also still looking for instructors and aides for the summer leisure sessions.

These are paid positions, Fitzpatrick said. Each class has at least one instructor and one aide in the class, depending on the class and enrollment size. Aides should be 16 years and older, class instructors should be 18 years and older. Other than age, the most important qualifications are enthusiasm and the desire to provide a positive experience for patrons.

“We look for people who have a smile on their faces, who enjoy helping kids, and like to have a good time,” Fitzpatrick said. 

He said leisure classes are available for individuals from 2 years old through adults, and cover a wide variety of activities, including arts and crafts. Classes include single session classes, and classes that meet for multiple sessions. Many classes in June will meet four times at different times in the afternoon. Most will meet Monday through Thursday, but they will have some leisure activities available on Fridays.

“It gives people an opportunity to fit (classes) into their schedule,” Fitzpatrick said. 

After not being able to provide in-person classes last year, Fitzpatrick is excited to have a full class offering again.

“It’s going to be good to get a full slate of classes again,” Fitzpatrick said. “The reward you get is seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces.”

Sports moves back outdoors

On the sports side, a full calendar of summer sports is already “off and running,” said Assistant Superintendent Chris Umphres.

Umphres is also excited to have a full calendar of activities again.

“We’re excited to get back out and do the outside sports now that the sun’s out and the weather’s starting to turn (warmer) a little bit,” he told the board.

After already hosting the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball and softball tournaments last weekend, Umphres said the Rec is scheduled to host sports tournaments nearly every weekend throughout the summer.

First up is a United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) tournament the weekend of May 22 and 23, and the 2-1A Kansas High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) baseball and softball tournaments Memorial Day weekend.

One change for this year’s KSHSAA tournaments, noted GBRC Executive Director Diann Henderson, is that tickets to the tournament will be sold online through GoFan/Huddle Tickets, and will be a touchless gate admission. When they become available, a link will be provided on the KSHSAA website. They are also still seeking volunteers to work the gates at Great Bend Sports Complex for the two-day tournaments, May 27 and 28, she said.

This year, an end-of-season tournament for Rec baseball and softball programs will be included in the schedule, something Umphres is excited to see back on the calendar for the after losing the tournaments due to COVID last summer.

Those Rec seasons are also getting set to kick off soon, Umphres said, with practices beginning this week, and games beginning the week of June 7 and running through mid-July. Ages range from blastball for 4 year olds, to tee-ball for 5 and 6 year olds, and baseball and softball up through freshmen in high school.

Baseball and softball are not the only sports set to ramp up outdoors during the summer.

Umphres noted the disc golf course at Veterans Park is open each day to the public, and the course will also play host to multiple tournaments this summer. Also, pickleball, which is still offering indoor play, will begin also playing outdoors during the summer months. It is also open to the public.

Like Fitzpatrick, Umphres is grateful for all staff and volunteers who make a busy summer season possible, including coaches, facilities upkeep, and game-day officials.

“We always appreciate the high school kids who come out and officiate, and umpire, and score-keep,” he said.