The Irving Parks and Recreation department, along with the city’s Planning and Community Development and the Capital Improvement Program, are in the process of applying for a 3.5 million dollar grant to fund expansions and improvements to the Georgia Farrow Recreation Center.
These expansions include adding a second gym to the facility that will have locker rooms, showers and additional restrooms, as well as expanding the fitness room and parking lot. The plans also will add upgrades to improve the building’s accommodations for people with disabilities.
Built in 1989 and at roughly 18,000 square feet, the Georgia Farrow Recreation Center is both the smallest and one of the oldest rec centers in the city of Irving. Joe Moses, assistant director of the city’s Parks and Recreation department, feels one of the biggest reasons for expanding Georgia Farrow is to bring the facility up to par with other recreational facilities in the city.
“One of the reasons we were always looking at expanding Georgia Farrow was to make sure it has the same amenities as all of our facilities have,” Moses said. “We want to keep things consistent. We think it’s important that, no matter which area of town you’re in, you receive the same service levels at our facilities.”
Moses explained that with the help of Planning and Community Development, the city was able to apply for the grant to help fund these much-needed improvements.
“They were in a situation where they could apply for this grant, and because of the economics of this area at the current time, Georgia Farrow was the only facility that qualified for the grant to do the expansion,” Moses said. “It allows us to do this expansion with the grant funding as opposed to general funds.”
Vicki Ebner, the Assistant Director for Planning and Community Development, said Georgia Farrow is located in a relatively lower-income area of town and the older building has seen a lot of use in the community.
“It’s a high-use facility, so we know that we’re going to get a good ‘bang for our dollar’ that we put in,” she said. “[The rec center] is impacting almost 69,000 residents annually already, and it’s in a different part of town which has fewer amenities available to it. All of those factors go in together to say, ‘OK, this is really something that can benefit the community.’”
At this stage in development, getting community input is one of the city’s primary focuses. “It was really important to us, because this is a community center,” Ebner said. “It may be called a recreation center, but it really is a community center. It was really important to us that we make sure the people who are actually using the facility and the people that are around the facility are happy with what we’re going to do.”
Currently the project is still in planning and application phases and construction is not expected to begin until 2019. However, several community meetings have already been held to discuss the new expansions. Daral McKnight, Community Programs Supervisor for the center, said that community feedback about the project has been extremely positive so far.
“The community’s been asking for this for a while,” McKnight said. “It’s something they’ll be real proud to have. Talking with the advisory council and the community meetings that we’ve had, they were all excited and they can’t wait.”
McKnight hopes these new expansions will inspire more participation from the community at large.
“First of all, it will help with staffing,” he said. “Staffing would be able to bring more programs into the community. We already have good participation, but there will be a whole lot more participation, especially having the churches and having more special events here.”
Joe Moses also hopes to see the facility filled to capacity with residents, and more importantly, that they enjoy using the facility.
“I hope to see that the community gets what they’re looking for and, within a couple of years, we’re busting at the seams again,” he said. “We want full facilities, no matter how big or how small they are, because that means that we’re servicing our community. We want to make sure we’re offering programs and services that our residents are taking advantage of, and that we have facilities that make them feel comfortable and safe and they enjoy using.”
The Georgia Farrow Recreation Center is located at 530 Davis Drive. The next community meeting to discuss the center’s new updates and expansions will be held in late June.