Eunice Activity Center to reopen next year after closing due to pandemic, winter freeze

The Eunice Activity Center recreation facility pictured Oct. 9 in Arlington. The facility hosts many programs for older adults but is closed because of the pandemic and the Texas winter storm.

For Susie Traylor, Eunice Activity Center recreation facility manager, the older adults who frequent the center are like family. Despite the hugs and smiles, it’s disappointing she can’t welcome them back into the center.

The Eunice Activity Center hosts active adult programming such as dances, cooking classes, arts and crafts, games and other social activities, said Venera Flores-Stafford, parks and recreation assistant director.

The center originally closed due to the pandemic with plans to reopen, but the older adults and staff never returned after the winter storm hit earlier this year, Flores-Stafford said.

The freeze left the water lines broken and walls beyond repair so they need to be replaced, said Alf Bumgardner, city construction manager and staff architect.

“It was very sad because, you know, we find that seniors need that socialization, especially if they live alone,” Flores-Stafford said.

The city started repairs for the facility in February, but only the water lines and air conditioning units have been fixed, Bumgardner said.

The rest of the repairs can’t be done until a design build firm comes to document the needed improvements, he said. The plans for the repairs were expected to be presented to the Arlington City Council on Oct. 12.

If the council approves the repairs, Bumgardner team will search for a design build firm to do the work. Once selected, they must go back to the council for approval.

“That would go to the City Council in late November,” he said. “And if they approve it, the contractor, then we would start work in December.”

Bumgardner said he expects the center to reopen in February or March 2022.

The activity center has been closed for nearly two years, Traylor said. Most older adults were scared and anxious to come out for some of the events held during the pandemic.

She said she and her staff have had to be flexible in planning their events while the center is under repairs. They initially moved their events to the Dottie Lynn Recreation Center, but had to relocate once summer day camps started and the number of children in the building increased.

The staff relocated their events to the Bob Duncan Center. Once the Bob Duncan Center was chosen as a location to distribute booster shots, they had to return to the Dottie Lynn Recreation Center on Oct. 4, she said.

“The seniors have just been overwhelmingly patient,” she said. “They really have.”

Traylor said one of their biggest events is the Aging Well Expo. The event allows older adults to speak with health care professionals and get tips on how to improve their health and overall well-being, accord- ing to the city website.

When the event was held in February 2020, over 1,700 participants came to the Esports Stadium Arlington and Expo Center. This year, the event was held in a drive-thru format to encourage social distancing. 200 cars made their way through the health fair at the Bob Duncan Center, she said.

Before shutting down, the center had nearly 20 activities in a week. From host- ing groups like a ukulele band, craft groups and holding art classes, the Eunice Activity Center was busy, she said.

The staff currently puts on about 10 events a week, Traylor said.

The older adults miss the center because it acts as an outlet for socialization and also gives them mental stimulation, Flores-Stafford said.

Communication with members has been difficult without a place to meet in person, Traylor said. Most of the older adults prefer phone calls to emails, so the staff needed to call people to keep an open line of communication or to get them registered for events.

Traylor has only two staff members to answer calls, and it’s a struggle to keep up, she said. While the majority of the people who used to come to the center keep in contact, some don’t call back and fall through the line of communication.

It’s been hard since the center closed, she said. Most of the older adults she works with don’t enjoy change, and it’s been one of the hardest parts of being away from the Eunice Activity Center.

“They like the simple life,” she said. “They like to go and do the things that they've always done.”

@MandyHuynh12

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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