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    (L) Interior if Brea Community Center, (R) Exterior of Community Center.

    A Courier Special Report
    New Community Recreation Centers Enjoy Huge Success Throughout the Southland – Brea

    By Elizabeth Lindell • Courier Staff Writer

          Editor’s note: Beverly Hills is now considering a community recreation center. This is the first in a series of special Courier reports on city recreation centers throughout southern California, their costs, and their impact on their cities. The cities we will cover in the series are Brea, Yorba Linda, Sierra Madre and Monrovia, concluding with an analysis of the proposed center for the The City.
          Nine years after its opening, the Brea Community Center still has its doors wide open and its rooms full of fulfilled artists and athletes.
          Soon after the center opened, in March 1997, around 3,000 people walked through its doors every week. In March 2005, almost 9,000 people visited the center each week and the numbers keep climbing. Brea, an upscale Orange County city of 36,000, spent about $7.6 million building the facility on city-owned land.
          “It has been hugely successful. We are pretty much maxed-out. Our program spaces can’t be used more. The fitness classes, most of them average 30 to 35 people. When we first started out, we were lucky if we had five people in them,” said Deni Tidland, Brea Community Center supervisor
          According to Tidland, the 51,000-sq. ft. center that took about two years to build, once the project got to the design stage, once won a Facility of Merit Design award from Athletic Business Magazine.
          “There wasn’t a place for the community to come to and recreate, to have meetings of social interest, to have meetings of cultural interest. So, there was a need for that type of facility,” said Bill Lentini, Brea mayor.
          Tidland says the center was designed to fit a variety of needs such as recreation, fitness, art, childcare, social services and rental needs.
          “There’s a real shortage for recreation facilities in Brea. It’s very much a basketball town. This facility has a two-court gym. So, the gymnasium was a real primary focus,” said Tidland. “We have rental facilities at the civic center and we’ve been very successful with those so that was another component they wanted here. So, we have a banquet hall here at the community center. We have a Family Resource Center, which is our social services component for the city, which is located here in the community center.”
          The community center is fully equipped with a two-court gymnasium, banquet hall, room for indoor soccer and hockey, a workout facility, an aerobics or group exercise room, a babysitting room, two children’s activity classrooms, Teen Zone, two small meeting rooms, an art studio and two office areas.
          “We have a complete workout facility over there. We host classes for adults, too, including parenting classes, healthcare classes and just classes to improve the individual. If you’re interested in taking dance, for instance, or an instrument, of some kind, those are the kinds of the things that you might have to, otherwise, go out of the community to find. You can find them over at the community center,” said Lentini.
          Lentini says that in addition to the recreation element of the center, there are many life-enriching programs available.
          “Aside from our Helping Hands and after-school programs, we have tutoring programs. That dovetails nicely in with our educational system within the community. It helps working parents, particularly single parents, know that their children are being cared for in a secure environment where they can also have an opportunity to participate in recreational events and to get tutored and advance their education,” said Lentini.
          Lentini says the center is home to organizations such as Youth and Family Resources, a long-standing program in Brea, composed of community members, city officials and elected officials, which provides free screenings for breast cancer, ADD (attention deficit disorder) testing and vision and hearing testing.
          “It addresses the real needs of people, in terms of meeting those day to day trials and tribulations of life,” said Lentini.
          “When we bought the property and built the facility, it was built with bonds that were financed at a higher percentage rate and we’ve been able to refinance those over the years at a much lower percentage rate so that we’ve dropped our interest payments on those significantly because of the amount of reduction and the overall interest rate. So, that’s helping the community,” said Lentini.
          Lentini says the center realizes 75% of its operating costs, which includes a building occupancy charge. The charge covers things such as maintenance, utilities, landscaping and janitorial services. A certain amount of the 75% is earned by renting out the facility.
          “The occupancy is tremendous. Right now, there’s a church that rents it out on Sunday, there are organizations that rent it out for breakfast and there are businesses who rent it out for business meetings,” said Lentini.
          According to Tidland, the center also generates revenue by charging fees for use of the fitness area, renting out the banquet hall and charging fees for some of the children’s programs. She also says there are a variety of on-going service clubs that are rental clients of the center.
          “Its all fee based. There’s no free use. Service clubs pay a fee to meet here. A lot of local businesses use our facility for business meetings. And, on the weekends, it’s mainly private parties, wedding receptions, anniversary parties, birthday parties, that type of thing, and then we have a church that meets here every Sunday,” said Tidland. “So, our facility, from a rental perspective, is booked, every Saturday night, every Sunday morning, probably two-thirds of every Friday night is booked, probably half of the Sunday afternoons are booked and then, during the week, it’s more of the business clientele.”
          Tidland says the center would not have been built, had they not had community support.
          “The community committee was the group that really spearheaded the project. It wasn’t staff-driven. It was community driven. Those folks never gave up,” said Tidland.
          According to Tidland, the center draws a diverse and wide range of ages, from preschoolers to seniors.
          “We serve, under one roof, a variety of ages. From babysitting very, very small ages to brides to business clients to people who are exercising to basketball players. That’s a huge range of people under one roof,” said Tidland.
          Tidland says, although the center has a few leagues that use the facility a couple of nights a week, the center has an open-gym policy.
          “Generally, our gym is left open for people who are not part of organized groups so they can come here, pay a fee and do drop-in basketball or volleyball,” said Tidland. “They don’t have to be part of an organized group. You just come and you pay if you come to the class but if you don’t come next week, well, you didn’t pay for it. So, a lot of our stuff is drop-in which I think is much more attractive to most of us who have very, very busy lives.”
          According to Tidland, one of the best things about having a community center is the vast array of activities available.
          “I think it’s just having a variety of activities all under one roof and people can come here and feel welcome and have a lot of services at their fingertips. They can bring their child to babysitting while they take a class, they can workout while their child is in Tiny Tots,” said Tidland.
          Tidland feels one of the centers biggest accomplishments has been the success of the Family Resource Center.
          “The lower income clients feel comfortable here and their numbers have continued to grow through the years so it makes me feel like we’re doing something right. It maybe is easy for somebody who has a lot of confidence to come into this building and play basketball and workout and go into Tiny Tots, go into a program they have signed up for. But, to see people who are low income, maybe no income, come here and look for services and then come back, that really feels like a huge success to me,” said Tidland.
          Montez Brewer, a Riverside resident and former Brea resident of 30 years, still travels to take yoga at the center even though she has moved more than 30 miles away.
          “The draw is still for me to come to the community center. I love the instructors, I like the cleanliness of it, I like the friendliness of it. It’s a very comfortable feeling,” said Brewer.
          Brewer appreciates what the community center has done for the city of Brea.
          “I really feel like the Brea Community Center is the glue that holds the whole community together because everybody gathers here, there’s something for everybody from the toddlers to the teenagers to the adults so it really is a plus. I think Brea has been very forward-thinking in their planning,” said Brewer.

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