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Community Center assessment team adopt final report

By Natasha Clark

Assistant Managing Editor

AGAWAM The Community Center Assessment Committee has voted to adopt the final draft of their report. Since early 2007 the committee has been analyzing the prospect of a community center for the town.

Committee Chair Anthony C. Bonavita said their mission was to conduct a study and provide a report to inform the town. They have accomplished what they've set out to do, Bonavita added.

A day after the committee met to go over the final draft, Bonavita told Reminder Publications that one of the key things is that a community center is way more than just a gym.

Parks and Recreation Director Christopher Sparks agreed, citing that his view of the rec center goes well beyond organized sports.

"It is a place for the entire community to have events, attend programs and it is a place that can be used by the general public as well as special interest groups," Sparks said.

Currently, the parks department utilizes school gymnasiums on a limited basis.

"There is no site or center that Parks and Rec has control of. Because we are in the schools, whenever there is a school function or PTO function or town election, Parks and Rec events are canceled," Sparks said.

The goal of the committee in part was to evaluate and examine a potential site that would be a suitable venue for performing arts and cultural enhancements in general. They found that the barn at School Street Park would be best suited as a multi-purpose cultural center, a separate building and endeavor from the community center.

"We felt that the barn is something that really could be utilized for the performing arts. It exists. It's there. It's owned by the town," Bonavita said.

The committee also evaluated several potential sites for the community center, of which Shea Field was found to be the most desirable.

"We believe that Shea Field has appropriate space there to put a new building for a community center with parking. Secondly, the committee also strongly considered the Armory building adjacent to Shea Field," Bonavita said.

He explained that any option would need a long-range financial plan.

He plans to have an official copy of the report in the hands of Mayor Richard Cohen by the end of the week.

Mayor-elect Susan Dawson was present at the committee's Wednesday night meeting, last week. Bonavita said the committee would remain available to her should she need them in an advisory capacity. He also thanked those who helped put the report together.

"I'm very thankful of all the people that served on the committee. Everyone worked very hard and I think they did a great job," Bonavita added.