After 14 years since it started, residents and elected officials unveiled the new Haverford Township Community Recreation and Environmental Center on Thursday evening, Flag Day.
“Welcome to the heart of the Fourth Ward,” said the ward’s commissioner Dan Siegel to the many spectators who came out.
Tim Denny, assistant township manager, spearheaded the project. Wearing a very patriotic jacket in honor of Flag Day, he and many others who came up to speak reflected how there was much fighting over the what to do with the former Haverford State Hospital land. But eventually it was the majority of the residents who helped shape that decision to what stands on the grounds now.
State Rep. Greg Vitali (D-166) said that if it was not for Denny’s hard work and personality of bringing people together “this building wouldn’t be here.” But his praises did not end with Denny.
“The township elected quality commissioners who work together for the best of the township,” said Vitali, who said that he used to cut the state hospital’s grass during his younger years.
Second Ward Commissioner Mario Oliva, who is also chairman of Haverford Township’s Recreation Commission, said that this is what the residents wanted.
“Look at what we created for our children,” he said as his voice broke with emotion.
What The Residents Said About the Rec Center
After the speeches were made and a ribbon was cut, everyone was able to walk in and view the new 35,000-square foot facility. Many of the children were shooting hoops in the double gymnasium and they and adults tried out the wellness center’s treadmills and other workout equipment.
“It’s unbelievable and great for the township,” said Jared Rudenstein as his two young children were in a stroller. “It will be good for the kids.”
Aurora Dizel, along with her husband and 14-month-old daughter, were checking out the wellness center. She described the new building as “awesome” and will be taking advantage of it since it is so close to their house.
One of the things that Joy Sizgorich likes about the center is that it was “built with ‘green’ in mind.” She was referring to the center’s geothermal heating and cooling system, which uses 40 wells that are 400 feet down below the parking lot of the center. The system takes water from the wells and uses it to cool and heat the facility.
What Area Leaders Said About The Rec Center
After the speech, Denny explained to the Haverford-Havertown Patch what he hopes people will take away from the center.
“That hard work and a good idea and the ability to paint a picture to make people feel like they are part of the process, good can things can happen,” he said.
Separately, both 5th Ward Commissioner Jeff Heilmann and 8th Ward Commissioner Chris Connell said that they had to be convinced of voting for the approval of the center because they wanted to know how it would benefit the community. In the end, they voted for it.
Both 9th Ward Commissioner and township president Bill Wechsler and 1st Ward Commissioner and township Vice President Steve D'Emilio were so pleased with the final product that they hope to hold a few township commissioner meetings in the center’s spacious conference room during the year.
D’Emilio expressed what a hard-fought fight it was to get the center.
“I never thought we would get to where we are,” he said with a smile.
“I hope the community uses it from all ages,” Wechsler said.
Vitali echoed Wechsler’s statement, saying that the Haverford Reserve has something for everyone.
Don Kelly, former president of the township’s Civic Council, said his group worked hard to make sure the hospital’s land was reserved for the public.
The current president of the council was extremely pleased with the center.
“I’m proud to live in Havertown. It keeps getting better and better,” Chris Whiting said.