Liberty Youth Recreation Impact Center unveiled Thursday
By Samantha Phillips
The old Liberty High School gymnasium on Church Hill-Hubbard Road will now serve as a youth recreation center and for community wellness programs.
Joseph Nohra, Liberty Local School District superintendent, said students in the Success After 6 program had the chance to play indoor tennis Wednesday night, which will be a regular feature of the program.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon kicked off the first phase of the Liberty Youth Recreation Impact Center project. Students, alumni, school board and county officials were present.
The Thomases Family Endowment of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation granted Liberty schools $10,000 to refinish the floors, and the school district invested $40,000 for restorations including lighting, ceiling repair and ventilation.
“The district is moving forward. We want all of our residents and children to know we intend to have a positive impact,” Nohra said. “It’s all about the kids and the community.”
The district partnered with the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown for the project.
By June 1, Nohra said there will be more restroom stalls and new basketball hoops and fans. For phases three and four, the district will invest in seating and tables and renovate the locker rooms, install a kitchenette and design an outdoor recreational space.
Last summer, the school board considered selling the property and the building to generate revenue to develop green space in Liberty, but alumni encouraged the board to follow through with former superintendent Stan Watson’s plans of repurposing the gymnasium.
Michael Rawl, executive director of the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown, said the JCC will coordinate and structure programs for the rec center, including basketball, tennis and baseball. He said the JCC is focused on the center being a “wonderful place for families.”
It also will be used for before and after-school programming and some senior-citizen activities.
“This is a great thing for Liberty. It’s another big plus that is going to help the growth and development of the township and Trumbull County,” said Trustee Arnie Clebone.
Part of the old high school building was demolished in 2005, and the gym was used as a warehouse.
“A lot of kids don’t have a place to do activities, like me and my friends used to go to Girard’s gym, but now this can be our place,” said senior student Mouad Elouaddi. “Kids need a positive distraction, a place to be active.”