Better times: Marshall White Community Center finds success once again

Aug 2 2010 - 8:58am

Images

(Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
Kyle Beickel (left) and Chance Rutherford train with Ron Brown in the boxing ring at the Marshall White Community Center in Ogden on Thursday.
(Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
Kyle Beickel (left) and Chance Rutherford train with Ron Brown in the boxing ring at the Marshall White Community Center in Ogden on Thursday.

OGDEN -- A little more than a year ago, the Marshall White Community Center's future looked bleak.

Hard times had befallen the facility once considered a crown jewel by those who live in hardscrabble neighborhoods nearby.

Patrons were few and maintenance issues plagued the indoor pool, viewed as the center's most valuable asset.

But that all changed after Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership, a local nonprofit organization, assumed management of the city-owned Marshall White Center in June 2009.

Monthly participation by patrons at the center, 222 28th St., has doubled, and OWCAP has begun plowing money from operational cost savings back into the facility.

"I'm proud to say we are part of the success of the Marshall White Center," said Donald Carpenter, agency administrator for OWCAP.

OWCAP also is receiving praise from individuals who, before the initial management agreement was signed, expressed concern that the center's pool would be closed.

"It's going very good," said Fern Heath, 85, who participates in senior water aerobics at the pool and was initially an opponent of OWCAP's takeover of the center. "I'm very pleased."

In February, the city extended its management agreement with OWCAP for three years.

Under the agreement, the city will continue to reimburse OWCAP up to $30,000 a month for expenses to operate the center.

During any quarter in which expenses are less than $90,000, the total savings are split evenly between the city and OWCAP, according to the agreement.

OWCAP's share of the savings so far, totaling about $38,000, has been obtained through cost-cutting measures such as improved maintenance of the pool and water conservation efforts, said Tyrone Aranda, the center's director.

OWCAP has spent about $15,000 from the savings for exercise equipment, stainless steel starting blocks for the pool, umbrellas and a barbecue grill for the patio, basketballs and other items, he said.

OWCAP also is slated to spend about $113,300 this year in Weber County RAMP grant funds to add an outside restroom and to reconfigure the center's tennis courts.

Ogden's administration had initially hoped that OWCAP would be able to obtain grants to completely operate the Marshall White Center without any financial subsidy from the city, said Mayor Matthew Godfrey.

As that hasn't happened, the management agreement has proven to be an effective option enabling OWCAP to succeed in running the Marshall White Center, he said.

"They accomplished all the objectives we hoped for," Godfrey said in an e-mail to the Standard-Examiner. "The Marshall White Center is far better utilized by the community, it's cleaner and they are doing it for less money."

Improved amenities have helped increase the number of people who use the Marshall White Center from about 4,000 a month before OWCAP assumed management to as many as 15,000 a month currently, some of whom are repeat customers, said Jesse Garcia, a former city council member.

"OWCAP has been allowed to make some improvements, and the staff is allowed to have time to mentor kids," he said. "These guys have a little more freedom to do things that are different, which is kind of nice. If you get that many kids off the street that are not creating problems, it's good for the community. It gives them a place to go and feel accepted."

OWCAP has introduced a number of new programs at the center for adults and youth, including a game room, swim lessons, a youth basketball league, yoga, life skills, education and parenting classes.

The Marshall White Center also serves more than 130 members of the Boys and Girls Club of Weber-Davis, who enjoy taking a dip in the pool or participating in other activities.

"It's the coolest place on earth!" club member Carl Roper, 11, said of the center.

The center also is gaining more visibility by partnering with community organizations, such as the Ogden Police Department. For the second year in a row, the OPD will hold a public forum at the center in September as part of an areawide gang conference.

Another key in the center's success has been the hiring of Aranda, a former athletic director for Layton Christian Academy, who has assembled an outstanding management team, Carpenter said.

"Hiring Tyrone was good," said Carpenter. "He had the ability to make it (improvements at the Marshall White Center) happen."


This topic is being discussed at the Weber County Forum.

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