Volleyball complex to fill senior center void
A fter James Worsley was hired as director of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department last year, one of his first visits was to a local church that leases space to the county four days a week for senior activities.
The seniors there told Worsley the same thing they’ve been telling elected officials and county staff for most of the past 15 years.
“They said, ‘We need a senior center. The county has money set aside and we need you to go find us one,’” he recalled last week.
Chesterfield Parks and Recreation currently holds exercise classes and other senior-oriented programs at three churches: Episcopal Church of Our Savior, Huguenot Road Baptist Church and Chesterfield Baptist Church.
But with a massive “age wave” rolling toward the county, these classes and programs lack the room to accommodate everyone who wants to participate.
During the Board of Supervisors’ March 29 meeting, Chesterfield resident Gloria Easterling noted that due to the rapid growth of the county’s 55-and-over population, there are lengthy waiting lists for many senior activities.
County officials say they’ll be better prepared to address that demand next year when they open a new $7 million building at the intersection of Midlothian Turnpike and Chippenham Parkway. While Richmond Volleyball Club will be the primary tenant of the 50,000-square-foot facility, Chesterfield Parks and Recreation also will lease 5,000 square feet of dedicated space there for senior programs and other community events.
Worsley called it a “game changer” for the county’s senior population.
“My prayers have been answered,” said Mary Jones, one of only two citizens who attended a community meeting on the new facility last week.
Chesterfield’s Economic Development Authority is expected to break ground on the project in early May and have it substantially completed by December.
The facility will be constructed on 12.5 acres of county-owned property at Stonebridge, a mixed-use development that has breathed new life into the former Cloverleaf Mall site with a Kroger supermarket, retail shops and luxury apartments.
The Parks and Recreation Department plans to move into its section of the new building in mid-January.
“We will have our own access point, so if there are [volleyball] activities going on, people will be able to come and go without disturbing them,” Worsley said. The 5,000-square-foot space is roughly the same size as the county’s existing community centers in Bensley and Ettrick, both of which were built with money from the federal Community Development Block Grant program.
During the school year, when the facility otherwise would be vacant, Richmond Volleyball Club also has agreed to make the entire building available for use by Chesterfield Parks and Recreation from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“Our seniors have been asking for this for a long time,” said Leslie Haley, vice chairwoman of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors. “This is what we’ve been saying all along. We can’t build a free-standing senior center, but when you have an opportunity like this, it’s a win-win for everybody.”
County officials thought they had addressed the need for a senior facility several years ago. As part of a $4.3 million agreement with SportsQuest, the company was required to provide a 10,000-squarefoot facility that would be used exclusively for senior programs.
That project hadn’t begun when SportsQuest went bankrupt, however, frustrating local seniors who thought they finally were going to have adequate space for exercise and other activities.
Chesterfield Parks and Recreation still has the $315,000 that was originally designated for furnishing the SportsQuest facility.
The department already has obtained permission from the Board of Supervisors to use the money for another purpose.
Stuart Connock, who oversees planning and construction for the Parks and Recreation Department, said some of the money will be spent on furnishings for the community space at the Stonebridge building. The remainder will be allocated to cover part of the county’s construction costs.
It’s not yet known what the department will pay to lease the space. Garrett Hart, director of Chesterfield’s economic development office, noted last week that the contracts for the new facility are still being finalized.
County resident Arlene Price, a participant in many senior programs, reminded the Board of Supervisors last month that “engaged and active” seniors are an asset to the community.
“There is more than ample evidence to support that socialization of seniors is essential in maintaining physical and mental health,” she said. “Those who object to the county spending money on seniors for recreational purposes forget that we have paid and continue to pay taxes to support children’s activities.” ¦