It’s been several years since there have been any fun and games at the former Echo Park Boys & Girls Club. The club, which leased a city-owned building at the corner of Patton and Colton streets, closed without warning in the fall of 2007. Several workers filed lawsuits against the club over wage and salary issues and the city investigated its financial records. Some neighbors were glad to see the club go after long-running disputes over traffic congestion, noise and a proposed expansion. Late last month, however, the building reopened its doors to the public as the Echo Park Community Center, a facility operated by the Recreation & Parks Department.
The Saturday morning “soft opening” and open house started off slowly, said Dan Hammett, who oversees the center and several nearby recreation facilities. Then some kids showed up and went home to tell their parents. “Then people started coming. By the third or fourth hour, we were packed.”
The center’s classes – including a Wednesday night Zumba session – and hours are still fairly limited, and most of the newly renovated building remains empty. In fact, the sign out front still says Echo Park Boys & Girls Club and the facility is still missing from the Rec & Parks website. Hammett said classes and activities will be added over time depending on demand and funding. While youths will be able to take advantage of basketball leagues and other activities, the Echo Park Community Center will devote much of its daytime hours to neighborhood senior citizens, who for now have to travel to Griffith Park for the nearest city-run senior center. Hammett said senior citizens can expect everything from line dancing and computer classes to guided neighborhood walks. “We are looking for volunteers to teach [knitting and crocheting] classes,” Hammett said.
Reopening the recreation center amid budget cuts is not easy. Hammett and his staff are managing the Echo Park Community Center while also operating the nearby Echo Park Recreation Center across from Echo Park Lake and the Echo Park Children’s Center on Laveta Terrace. In addition, Hammett also supervises the soccer fields at nearby Vista Hermosa Park.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Hammett said of opening the new recreation center. “But hopefully by summer time we will be going full blast over there.”
Residents seeking class information or who want to volunteer at the Echo Park Community Center can contact Hammett at [email protected]