Ribbon-cutting ceremony marks the opening of the Eisenhower Recreation Center

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Not just one, not two, but three new recreation facilities have now opened their doors in Manhattan.

The City of Manhattan, Manhattan Parks and Recreation, as well as USD 383 took part in a ribbon cutting Sunday to celebrate the opening of the new Eisenhower Recreation Center.

“It was just an opportunity to celebrate the culmination of an almost two-year process, to bring these new facilities to the community and just to recognize some of the people that have been involved in that, and to let the community know that we are open,” Randi Clifford, Manhattan Recreation Director said.

Dozens gathered in one of four gyms throughout the facility to take part in the ribbon cutting festivities. Speeches were heard from several parks and recreation department heads, Mayor Wynn Butler, city manager, Ron Fehr, USD 383 school board members, the building architect, as well as others.

“I’m quite pleased to be here today to see this third facility in place because, for those of you that have been with the city for a while and played at our old facilities, know that out-of-bounds was the wall. The wall. That always hurts playing basketball. It’s nice now to actually have boundaries and courts that we can use on a full-time basis,” Mayor Wynn Butler said.

The recreation center will be a shared space between the city and USD 383, but with 48,000 square feet of space, there is plenty of room for everyone. Clifford spoke more about the amenities the facility has to offer.

“Two gyms with two courts each, for a total of four courts in the facility. They have the flexibility of doing basketball, volleyball, pickleball. We have an area that has netting that allows us to drop down some batting tunnels. We can do baseball and softball. We can do soccer in a portion of the facility. We have artificial turf we can use as well. We also have the walking track along with a multipurpose room and a kitchen and concession facility.”

Clifford added that the facility has plenty of flexibility. He said that before the three new recreation centers, the last public indoor recreation space built in the community was in the 1950s with the Peace Memorial Auditorium in City Hall. Clifford said he believes these centers will make a significant impact on the community from this day forward.

“One of the highest identified needs was for indoor recreation space and this is going to be something that will meet the need of moving forward with. Really, it’s a total of ten new courts when you add the three facilities together.”

Clifford added that the lack of indoor recreation space is no longer an issue.

“Now we have the ability, with our free rec center membership, to come out and take advantage of, you know, dropping in to shoot some hoops, or playing some volleyball, some pickleball, use the walking track, something that hasn’t been available before in our community, and I think that’s going to be a big plus.”

The Eisenhower Recreation Center is located at 2850 Kirkwood Drive and will be a shared space with the Eisenhower middle school, whom Clifford said, Manhattan Parks and Rec has a long running partnership with.

“We’ve always had a great tradition of sharing facilities and working together to help each other with those things that we have in our own respective inventories.”

Clifford spoke more about how the recreation center is just another example of that partnership.

“We have our shared-use gym that the school district will be using on a daily-basis for their P.E. classes, for their athletic practices, and for some of their events and games. At the same time we have the rest of the facility that will be open to the public, and the building was designed in a way that we can maintain that separation and still allow the school district to use the space while the public is in the building too.”

Clifford added that the school’s share of the facility will be opened to the public in the evenings, weekends, summer, and any other times the school district is not in session.

Three new facilities, ten gyms, and over 100,000 square feet of indoor recreation space, all to meet one mission.

“I think this facility, along with our other two facilities is to give people opportunities for recreation and to bring some new activities and events, tournaments, to the community, because we now have the ability to host some rather large events that we just didn’t have that capacity before. So those two things kind of go hand-in-hand, but I think one of the most important things for us is just that day-to-day use for the community that just hasn’t been in place before.”

Clifford said, for him, it is gratifying to see everything come to completion, even amid the challenges the pandemic presented. Clifford says the completion is one of his biggest achievements.

“It’s really pretty exciting, both personally and professionally. For me, it’s very satisfying to be part of this whole process, to bring these facilities to fruition and to open them to the community.

Memberships to the Eisenhower Recreation Facility are free and can be found at mhkprd.com.

The Eisenhower facility will operate under regular hours of operation: Monday through Thursday 8AM to 8PM, Friday 8AM to 6PM, Saturday 9AM to 2PM, and Sunday 12PM to 6PM.

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