As the music filled the gymnasium, teenagers played basketball, girls in pink ballet tights pointed their toes and boys holding soccer balls walked around.
March 3 seemed like a normal day, but it was far from ordinary. It marked the fifth anniversary of the day the Robert E. “Bob” Price Recreation Center at 2050 Bonnie Lane opened its doors.
People’s charisma gave way to a celebratory environment as in its first five years, the center has had great impact in the community. Because the center exists, children and teenagers from low-income families in the area have a place to be, learn and develop.
“It is so special to me, because it has been so beneficial to the community,” said former Nevada Assemblyman Robert Price, the building’s namesake. “Having been involved in politics for many years of my life, I am always happy to see things that have a positive effect in people’s lives, especially when it comes to kids.”
Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins said the center fulfills an intrinsic need in the East Las Vegas community, which is populated with lower-income minority families. According to him, the community was neglected for a long time before the center was built. After it opened, it allowed for children, teenagers and even adults to have access to similar facilities than those of community and recreation centers in wealthier Las Vegas neighborhoods.
“This community has been neglected before, but the center put a little bit of quality of life back into the neighborhood,” Collins said. “It is such a great place for the kids and for the families because they have access to activities, learning and entertainment that were only available in higher-income places before.”
One of the center’s fitness instructors, Robyin Morales, said the center is an essential part of the community because there is a lack of family-oriented activities in the east valley, and the center provides a place for families and children to engage in a variety of activities.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity to have the center here,” said Diana Frano, whose daughter and two nieces spend time at the facility. “It is a great environment for the kids because they have a safe place to go, they learn here and they are surrounded by people who care about them.”
Frano’s 7-year old daughter, Sofia, has attended ballet classes since the site opened. Sofia would have few opportunities for recreational activities outside of the center as they are not within Frano’s economic reach.
“A lot of parents can’t afford things or they have to work two jobs to make ends meet, so this gives kids an opportunity to do some of those things that they otherwise wouldn’t do,” Morales said. “Something as simple as having access to a personal fitness class can boost a child’s self-esteem. It benefits their personality and gives them insight into who they are and how they feel about themselves.”
In an area where kids of low-income households have a higher tendency to get into trouble or perform poorly in school, the facility has also been key to getting at-risk children off the streets.
“We have gotten a lot of kids who were troublemakers and who were getting expelled from school,” said recreation specialist Jeannine McKinnon. “But when they came here, we took them under our wing, helped guide them along the way and put them on the right path.”
Not only has the center provided opportunities for children, but during its first five years, it has implemented adult development classes. A free English as a second language course is popular among women in the area.
“The women who are in my class are very committed, and I see a dedication that I don’t usually see in other areas,” said Albert Angulo, who teaches ESL at the center. “If the center didn’t have an ESL program, these women would not have a way to learn English, and they would be invisible to the community.”
There are plans to expand the center to add fields and a swimming pool to give people more choices for activities.
“It has been great so far, but we need to expand it so that kids can be more comfortable,” Collins said. “I am going to beat the money out of somebody if I have to, but it’s going to happen. It will continue to grow.”
Contact reporter Maria Agreda at firstname.lastname@example.org.