published Monday, October 10th, 2011

New community center for Dalton

"If you build it, they will come" is a widely used but misquoted phrase (the second pronoun is correctly "he") from a book ("Shoeless Shoe") and an iconic movie ("Field of Dreams") based on W.P. Kinsella's baseball tale. In whatever form it is used, the quotation's sentiment likely will apply to the new Dalton Community Center.

The facility is scheduled to open in early December, with playground and outdoor athletic fields to follow in February. It should attract a large following. Located at the corner of Frederick Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the $7.5 million center will provide a host of services and facilitate a broad range of activities for all age groups. Moreover, it is designed to serve the entire community, not only the neighborhood in which it is located.

The new facility, which replaces a center built in the mid 1960s, includes offices for health and nutrition programs, library services and a computer lab. There's room, as well, for agencies that wish to provide classes and instruction in a variety of topics, including GED prep classes. In a community where access to health, educational and library can be difficult, the new center should be especially welcome.

So will the two fully outfitted gyms, a fully equipped exercise room, a walking track and space for yoga and similar classes. There's meeting space for community groups as well. The outdoor spaces -- picnic areas, athletic fields, etc. -- will complement the indoor facility. All are available without charge, a welcome decision at a time when continuing economic hardship makes it difficult for many to pay for recreational and educational activities.

There already are indications that many members of the community plan to come to the new center. City officials happily report that they've been peppered with questions about the facility and its opening date. There's considerable interest, too, from the public about renting space in the center for private events like birthday parties, dinners and group meetings. Such interest is a sure sign that city leaders have served the public interest in funding and building the new center.

A viable community center serves a variety of purposes. It can be a home away from home for youngsters and others who need a safe place to play and study. It can be a place where people come for services to safeguard their health and to improve their lives through learning and physical activity. And it can be a place where people come to discuss ways to improve their neighborhoods and community. The new Dayton Community Center promises to provide all that -- and more.

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