Palumbo Rec Center renovations complete

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The $1.2 million project will help keep the facility “clean, safe and ready to use.”

Initially dedicated in 1979 to honor the locally famous Palumbo family who helped many Italian-Americans assume daily life upon immigrating to the city, the Palumbo Recreation Center has since aged and has come to require maintenance. The City of Philadelphia, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Capital Projects Office and the Office of Councilman Mark Squilla teamed up in 2015 to ensure it remains a “clean, safe and ready to use facility.”

Although initially members of the Friends of Palumbo Rec applied for a $10,000 grant to solely focus on the remodeling of the kitchen, upon realizing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would not award it to them because they did not own the real estate, the members reached out to Squilla, seeing as the City owns the park and rec center. Upon hearing what the park and center-goers had to say, Squilla agreed to use the $10,000 grant to remodel the kitchen, and asked if there was anything else that needed to be done.

In response, John Smyth, an active community member involved with the Rec Center and who used to be the president of the Bella Vista Town Watch, informed him the acoustics were not great in the center’s multipurpose room, to which Squilla said he believed something could be done about that. From there, the renovations spiraled amounting to an approximate total of $1.2 million spent on the project.

“The concerns for the maintenance issues at Palumbo Playground were brought to us by John Smyth [of the] Palumbo advisory and Bella Vista Neighbors Association,” Councilman Squilla said. “We had Neighborhood Transformation initiative dollars that had to be spent by a certain time and Palumbo happened to be in the allotted boundaries. It all started with the state grant to help rehab the kitchen and get a sound system.”

Squilla added that when he completed a walk through of the center with John Smyth and City representatives to go over a list of issues at the recreation center, the additional list of repairs arose. He further explained that because of the community outreach and the timing of the money needing to be spent, it became a perfect match.

“I am very happy with the results of the renovation and would like thank John Smyth, Parks and Recreation’s Brian Conti and Bill Fuller, Commissioner Ott-Levell, Aparna Palantino and the entire team who worked on this project.”

John C. Smyth of the Friends of Palumbo Rec and Aparna Palantino, deputy commissioner at Parks & Recreation

Resting on the corner of 10th and Fitzwater streets, the center itself is home to structured programing for children and adults of all ages, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, softball and football fields, as well as community meetings, summer camp and after-school programing. Aside from the events and programs it hosts, Palumbo Recreation Center Advisory Council, the Academy of Palumbo, Bella Vista Soccer Club, Bella Vista Neighbors Association, Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, CYO Basketball, the Palumbo Soccer Club, Taney Baseball, Beginnings, Moonstone Preschool and William M. Meredith Elementary School also utilize the facility. Thus, thousands of kids have come through its doors, producing a lot of the subsequent wear and tear that required maintenance.

The building was in need of a new roof, masonry repairs and window replacements in its multi-purpose room and small meeting room; all needs which were met through the agreed upon repairs. Additionally, new lighting was required and installed inside its basketball court, exterior entrances, main lobby and multi-purpose room. An upgraded lighting system, new lighting motion sensors, a fire alarm system, security cameras and DVR and a new PA sound system in the multi-purpose room were also implemented.

Furthermore, a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system was installed, as well as interior renovations, including new storage areas, restroom fixtures and a lobby water fountain. The center’s kitchen was also renovated, and sound-absorbing acoustic panels in the multi-purpose room were constructed. The gym floor was also refinished, player protective padding was secured to the gym walls and a lot of exterior resurfacing was completed.

“The project turned out real well,” Smyth said. “We wanted to make sure the neighbors and community were aware of these renovations because most don’t normally see the inside of the building, and if you don’t see the inside you don’t know they’ve been done.”

In highlighting these renovations, the Rec Center hosted a celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, June 1 at 6 p.m., where hundreds of community members came out to observe the changes made to the facility. Overall, according to Smyth, everyone loved what they saw and the center foresees a long future of continuing to serve the community thanks to the internal and external capital improvements.

“The renovations to Palumbo Recreation Center went very well. The community is especially excited about the new indoor basketball courts and audio equipment,” Alain Joinville, public relations manager at Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, said. “We worked with Councilman Squilla to make improvements to Palumbo Recreation Center because there was a need to make some timely updates to the facility; a facility that has incredible community support and pride.”

Headed into the future, the center hopes to continue to maintain all improvements and improve interior and exterior housekeeping and maintenance in general. It also wishes to achieve improvements to the outdoor facilities that support baseball, soccer, flag football and year-round basketball.