COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The old Linden Recreation Center, built in 1951, was torn down to make way for a new multi-million dollar facilty.
The new Linden Community Center is high-tech and features many firsts, like a music studio, for a Columbus community center.
“There are neighbors here who felt forgotten, felt left behind, felt left out of Columbus’ success story and we’ve said that’s not acceptable in our community,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther.
On Monday, the doors of the new center will open with limited capacity and programming, joining a list of new developments in Linden – a new fire station, pre-K center, and affordable housing developments.
The new community building is more than double the size of the old one.
Ginther calls it an “opportunity center.”
“Now they was doing a lot over there, but now it’s good because they, because they can do more,” said Linden resident Pauline Huntley, who lives just down the street from the $25 million facility.
Huntley, a 16-year Linden resident, is raising four of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Huntley said the children rode around the center while it was under construction, wanting to see how much was going on.
“Because that’s their center,” Huntley said. “They’ve been going to that center since they were babies, so that’s their center.”
Ginther and NBC 4 toured the 55,000-square-foot, state of the art center, funded through public and private dollars and has been years in the making.
“The people of Linden have shaped this program, have been engaged from the very beginning and been very vocal about the pride they have in this community, in this neighborhood,” Ginther said. “They deserved an opportunity center like this.”
Inside the center, there are high-tech multi-purpose rooms, a room set aside for senior citizens, a state-of-the-art kitchen where a chef can conduct cooking classes, a high school-regulation basketball court, and next door, room for dance groups. There is even a professional music studio to grow the next big name in the industry from Columbus.
“If we really want to become America’s opportunity city, we first have to become America’s equal opportunity city,” Ginther said. “That meant we had to invest heavily. Equity is not equality and there are communities and neighborhoods left out.”
Mario Dovell, the new center’s manager, know. He remembers going to the old Linden rec center as a kid. Part of that building was built 70 years ago.
“If a 12-year-old Mario was walking inside the new Linden Community Center, he would be overwhelmed with all of the opportunities he is about to participate in,” Dovell said.
Stone around the new fireplace was taken from the fireplace inside the original building.
Down the hall, there’s a medical clinic for women and children.
“It’s about this collective community effort to really go after those social determinants of health and increase opportunity for families,” Ginther said.
“I kept them at the center when the center was open, so now we can’t wait until it opens again,” Huntley said.
The center also includes a 20-acre park, renovations to the pond, outdoor playgrounds, and a mobile health clinic.