The opening of the Ralph O’Dell Senior Center is the beginning of a new chapter for its members and the Celina community, officials said.

“It’s an investment in the future,” Mayor Ryan Tubbs said. “It’s honoring the people who are part of our past and giving them something nice to cherish for the future.”

Seniors took every opportunity they had to explore the new space ahead of its official grand opening in early December with events including woodworking and low-impact workout classes.

“[The seniors] love it,” Senior Center Coordinator Dani Mayfield said. “We don’t know what to do with all this space.”

The push for a new space came from Celina’s recent population growth, including its senior population, Tubbs said. The new center offers more than double the space with activities available.

“These ... nearly 5,000 square feet that we dedicate today offered to this worthy and honorable community within our community,” Tubbs said at the Dec. 6 opening.

In a nutshell

Celina’s population has grown in recent years including its senior population, which has grown by 122.22% from 2010 to 2022, according to U.S. Census data.

“Celina has grown, and so has our aging population and their need for a well-deserved, expanded facility,” Tubbs said.

The center has around 50 official members, 30 of whom show up consistently, Mayfield said. It is free to be a member, but center staff plan to introduce fees in the future, Mayfield said.

How we got here

While the new center opened in early December, its downtown predecessor opened nearly 40 years ago, and the seniors have outgrown it, Webb said.

The downtown senior center offered a place for seniors to go, resident Donna Walker said.

Walker said she didn’t venture out much because of the pandemic before visiting the original center in April.

“When my last grandchild got his license and didn't need to be picked up at school anymore, I went, OK, now what?’” she said. “I walked in one day at the senior center and the rest is history.”

The senior center was about 1,800 square feet, Parks and Recreation Director Cody Webb said. The new center is more than double that, he said.

Two senior center members attend a 'drumba' class, a workout using dance steps and drumming, in the new Ralph O'Dell Senior Center, a facility more than double the size of Celina's downtown senior center. (Alex Reece/Community Impact)
Two senior center members attend a "drumba" class, a workout using dance steps and drumming, in the new Ralph O'Dell Senior Center, a facility more than double the size of Celina's downtown senior center. (Alex Reece/Community Impact)

“[The original center] just got to be too tight in there for [the seniors],” Webb said. “It became a safety issue with them being in there, being that compact and not being able to move and flex.”

Here is a brief look at the new center's journey:
  • January 2022: The Ousley family and City of Celina enter an agreement to acquire 8.4 acres for a future park
  • April 2022: Renderings of the new senior center are presented to City Council
  • May 2022: City and Celina ISD officials announce Bobcat Field would be preserved and used as a linear park
  • October 2022: Construction begins
  • December 2022: City Council approve the name of the Ralph O’Dell Senior Center

Diving deeper

Work on the Ralph O’Dell Senior Center, located at 410 E. Main St., officially began in early 2022 and has taken roughly 18 months and $3.2 million to get where it is now, Tubbs said.

“[The center] is a great amenity for our seniors,” Tubbs said. “ ... The old center ... wasn’t worth it to even renovate it in [the city’s] long-term plans because eventually the old senior center as well as city hall will come down in the next three to five years when our future government center is built.”

The idea to name the new center for resident Ralph O’Dell, longtime member and coordinator at the senior center, came directly from the other seniors, Webb said. The center is nestled inside a former field house at Ousley Park, a roughly 30-acre city project expected to break ground in 2025.

“This is just a greater project in the grand vision for how Ousley Park will develop,” Tubbs said.

Going forward

The additional thousands of square feet available for seniors at the center could encourage more attendees, Mayfield said.

One specific upgrade is the 40-space parking lot instead of the on-street parking at the original center, Tubbs said.

Other amenities include a larger indoor gym area, a new kitchen, additional meeting space and more.

The Ralph O’Dell Senior Center will hopefully be a haven for the entire community, Webb said. It is open to anyone and residency in Celina is not required.

“It’s not just the senior center,’” he said. “We want this to be an all-inclusive place where you can come and hang out.”