Winston-Salem wants to see more people using recreation centers

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Community recreation centers are usually popular places because of the free amenities and services they offer.

The City of Winston-Salem’s Recreation and Parks Department is concerned that not enough people are using the resources.

“Completely underutilized,” said Leah Friend, assistant recreation director, while standing outside of the 14th Street Community Recreation Center.

“We have a computer lab in here open to the public, free Wi-Fi, computer classes and it’s never at capacity,” she said.

The recreation centers get a considerable amount of foot traffic after students are released from school.

However, the department wants to make sure the facilities are also being used by adults in the community -- including during hours when kids are at school.

Recreation and Parks hosted open houses at Carl H. Russell Sr. Recreation Center, 14th Street Community Recreation Center, Polo Park Community Recreation Center and Sprague Street Community Recreation Center on May 13.

The city didn’t receive the level of participation expected and now plans to get more feedback through surveys.

“Do they want more athletic events? Do we need more camps? Do we need leisurely things? We’re also trying to figure out what age group are we not serving,” Friend said.

Meanwhile, efforts are underway to make the recreation centers more inviting through small upgrades including re-painting rooms and changing the layout.

Friend explained that the computer lab at the 14th Street Community Recreation Center will move to a room closer to the main entrance.

The other goal is to highlight what makes the recreation centers stand-out.

The 14th Street Community Recreation Center has a boxing program.

It is also preparing for its late-night summer basketball league for adults (18 and older).

Louis Lowery, the center’s assistant supervisor, is thankful the city is pushing to get recreation centers more attention.

“I really think that this is important because a lot of people just don’t know what we offer, what we do for the community,” he said.

The City of Winston-Salem has 17 recreation centers.

This feedback initiative is a widespread effort, but the initial focus will be on the recreation centers where the open houses were held.

Friend says she is considering having the surveys available on the computers in recreation center labs, that way they are easily available when foot traffic is high.

Friend says she would like to have a plan in place to receive community feedback in about a month.