From Ground Breaking to Ribbon Cutting: Building Dreams in South Rocky Mount

Ribbon Cutting. Source: Tameka Kenan-Norman, City of Rocky Mount NC.
Ribbon Cutting. Source: Tameka Kenan-Norman, City of Rocky Mount NC.

By Tameka Kenan-Norman

When the city broke ground at the South Rocky Mount Community Center on Monday, July 13, 2015, it was about more that turning over dirt. It was about the revitalization and reinvestment in one of Rocky Mount’s most historic communities. On that day, City Manager Charles Penny spoke to those in the crowded room and noted the difference this kind of project can make in a community and a city.

“We have lots of hopes and dreams for this community that will create new opportunities for children and families,” said Penny.

The crowd for the August 15, 2016, grand reopening and ribbon cutting more than doubled the number for the ground breaking, with half of the newly air conditioned gym filled to standing room only.

“There is a whole new feel to the building,” said Penny. “A project like this just lifts everybody’s spirits.”

The over $2.7 million renovation required over a 12-month closure of the facility, but today, when the center reopened, those in attendance expressed that it was well worth the wait.

“Seeing the kids, the families, the older adults and the young adults take part in this facility and its usage, it was well worth the time and money,” said Kelvin Yarrell, director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Rocky Mount. “We look forward to the programs and services we will be able to offer our citizens at this wonderful new center.”

“I see hopefulness, and I feel that the city and this community have a bright future moving forward,” said Lois Watkins, councilmember for ward four where the renovated center stands. “Part of our revitalization strategy is to reinvest in this community, and this is the start.”

In addition to the air-conditioned gym, the 20,033 square foot facility now houses a renovated community kitchen, weight room and game room, improved parking, better security and additional meeting space.

During his address to the crowd, Penny recalled a time when he took his nephew to the center’s gym prior to the renovation.

“I stood in the gym and started to melt. I couldn’t stand it. I told my nephew, ‘We’re going to have to leave. I can’t take this.’ I mean it was tough,” Penny said. “The great thing about this renovation is that the players and spectators won’t have to worry about that, because this gym is air-conditioned and that is a major accomplishment.”

The applause from community and city leaders at the ribbon cutting echoed the ones from the groundbreaking, but this time the doors opened wide to welcome the community back and usher in an era of continued revitalization and strengthening of the communities in Rocky Mount.

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Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.