Rec. Center offers much for little
By Denise Coffey
Killingly - posted Tue., Feb. 1, 2011
The Killingly Parks and Recreation Department is a world unto itself. Behind the doors of the 39,000 square foot Community Center on 185 Broad St., Tom Dooley and a merry band of staffers provide a recreational home away from home for young and old. There are elliptical machines and stationary bicycles and treadmills. There are free weights and a universal machine. The cost for all of it is $10 a month for residents, $15 for non-residents.
“In these difficult economic times,” Dooley said, “we’re trying to keep the costs low. Especially these days when things are so stressful, people need an outlet that isn’t real expensive.”
Dooley believes in his department, his staff and the service they provide to the community. The Rec Center provides physically and emotionally satisfying outlets, he said. It allows people to try out new activities without investing loads of money.
One hundred fifty to 200 programs a year are offered to area residents. Activity Guide Books are mailed out three times a year. Winter class prices range from $5 to $40. Basketball and volleyball leagues for adults age 18 and older run from five to eight weeks, costing up to $175 for the season. Those fees range as high as $60 a month at some of the area’s more upscale fitness centers.
True, the Community Center is old. It was built in the early 1900’s. And there are no personal trainers available. It isn’t open 24 hours a day or even late into the night. But it does offer what many other gyms cannot: nominal monthly fees for those on tight budgets.
Killingly is one of the few towns in the area with its own community center big enough to hold exercise programs and classes. It is one of the few towns to have its own basketball court.
“Its right out of Hoosiers,” Dooley said. It is a small, narrow court complete with a balcony. “A college court is 94 feet. A high school court is 84. A middle school court is 64 or 74. I don’t think this is even as big as that,” he added.
While it doesn’t boast a swimming pool, the department has partnered with Koinioa Family Fitness Center in Thompson to offer a variety of swim classes and water exercise programs.
True to its name, the Community Center offers more than physical recreation. It is also home to a 235-seat auditorium, where the Little Theater on Broad Street rehearses and stages plays. There is a new stage, compliments of Lowe’s, which recognized the Rec Center and Little Theater as a “local hero.” Dooley boasts, “There’s not a bad seat in the house.”
Director Jessica van der Swaagh said they are very fortunate to have the support of the town council and the Rec Department. She grew up in Killingly Community Theater. “The Broad Street Theater is family,” she said. With five shows a season and rehearsal three to four times a week for three months, Broad Street’s thespians spend a lot of time together. When one (show) is going up, we’re auditioning for the next show,” she said.
Two years ago, writers across the nation submitted one act plays, and the Little Theater staged several of them, Dooley remembered. “It was really cool. And the price was good: $8 and $10 for musicals and $5 to $8 for other plays. Where can you see a play for that,” he asked?
Van der Swaagh is happy with what the theater has accomplished. “We have a great children’s theater. We want to do more adult shows. This year they are instituting DRAMA, Daring to Reach Adult Mature Audiences. It would give adults a chance to do more challenging roles, she said.
The first time Lori Goulston let her daughter out of her sight was when she signed her up for the Rec Center’s Camp Wallaby one summer. “I was nervous,” she said, “but she had a fabulous time. She went on field trips on her own. She went swimming,” She has since joined a Storybook Yoga class and gone to a Princess tea party. “Everyone got all dressed up,” Goulston said. “She had a great time, and for only five dollars.”