As the city’s population continues to increase, seniors who frequent the McKinney Senior Recreation Center, located at 1400 S. College St., said the center has felt the burden of overcrowding for years.
It is no surprise McKinney is experiencing growing pains throughout the city. It has seen a 36 percent population increase from 2010-17 and a nearly 86 percent increase in the population of those age 65 and older from 2009-16, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In 2002 the 16,000-square-foot senior center opened to accommodate 75-100 annual members age 50 and older. Located in its original building the senior center now has more than 2,900 annual members, and senior center workers believe membership will continue to rise to 3,000 members by the end of the year.
“In general the current facility has accommodated our [seniors]very admirably, but the recent population surge over the past five years or so has inspired us to look at options to accommodate our growing population,” Director of Parks and Recreation Michael Kowski said. “At this time we are working on a refresh plan for the current building … and concurrently developing scenarios to build a new senior center somewhere in the city.”
Although no funding is allocated for a new senior center, and no location is determined, Kowski said the center is on his short list of projects to recommend for a potential city bond election in May.
McKinney City Council began discussions about a potential bond in October and formed five subcommittees to evaluate the city’s needs, two of which are dedicated to parks and facilities.
With about 200 seniors visiting each day, McKinney’s senior center is running out of space to accommodate its members, said Laura Cegelski, McKinney Senior Recreation Center supervisor.
“We are pushing the limit right now,” said Don Livingston, a senior center member and volunteer. “… We desperately need space.”
More accommodations necessary
The senior center’s mission is to provide life-enrichment opportunities for those age 50 and older through recreational opportunities that keep them informed, socialized, healthy and happy, Cegelski said. The center offers amenities, such as a library, a fitness center, a pool, a game room, as well as activities including classes, creative arts, dance classes, games, seminars, sports and special events.
Over time every room in the senior center has become a multipurpose room due to a lack of space, Cegelski said, and senior center staff areas have continuously shrunk in size as closets were converted into offices and offices into a breakroom.
Shirley Nelson, the senior center dance club president who has been a member and volunteer since 2009, said more than 90 people typically attend the dance classes per session, and more than 150 people attend live music events on Friday nights.
“We need a dance floor about twice the size of the one we have,” Nelson said. “Nobody wants to dance around and bump into each other, and people quit coming because it’s so crowded.”
Tom Cumbie, a 12-year senior center member and volunteer, said there is a need for more pool tables. Often, 15-20 people are waiting to play on the two existing tables, he said.
“We’ve been complaining about space for as long as I can remember,” Cumbie said. “They are talking about modifying this place, but even if it happened it wouldn’t happen until springtime, and that’s just a Band-Aid. If they want to do anything else it’s going to have to go to a bond election.”
In addition to the five bond subcommittees created by City Council, the senior center also formed a subcommittee, which includes Cumbie, Nelson, Livingston and 11 other seniors, tasked with providing a list of center needs to the city’s bond subcommittee.
In addition to a larger facility, the senior center subcommittee has seen a need for more parking, more available activities, outdoor space and extended hours, including weekends.
Kowski said an architect has been hired to design a potential concept for a new senior center facility in the case that City Council calls for a bond and the center makes it on the list of potential projects.
While information is gathered for a potential new center and information is presented to City Council, Kowski said the senior center and the parks and recreation department will continue reaching out to seniors and residents, who will one day be seniors, to gain feedback of what members of the community would like to see in a senior center.
“We are presenting a variety of projects to our bond committee for their review and final consideration by council,” Kowski said. “Should a new senior center make the short list, and should our community vote in support of the idea, then this will allow us to provide a new, state-of-the-art facility that will serve generations of McKinney residents.”
The short list of projects will be determined in the spring, and the bond must be called by City Council 77 days prior to the election date to be placed on the May ballot.