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The Time is Now

The Time is Now

Council Corner: The Time is Now

By Karin Shupe, Town Council 

Scarborough’s population is growing! Our town experienced a larger influx of people than any other community in the State from 2010 to 2020. We went from being the 9th largest municipality in 2010 to the 7th in 2020. The seven municipalities larger than us, Portland, Lewiston/Auburn, Bangor, South Portland, Biddeford, all have something we don’t; a community center and aquatic center.

The idea of a community center is not new to this town. The first time Scarborough identified residents' want for a community center and the need for one was in 1978. Here we are 45 years later and the need still exists. The sport organizations and groups in Scarborough are constantly faced with difficulty finding space to run their programs. Right now the town does not have enough space to run many of the programs that residents want. This year Scarborough Travel basketball paid over $18,000 to run their program in Portland. This spring alone, Scarborough Youth Football is paying over $5,000 to Gorham to run a short 5 week program. To run the middle school and high school swim programs, the Schools are paying over $7,000 a season for out of town pool time and an additional $5,000 cost is incurred by the Schools towards busing the students to out of town facilities.  

The Scarborough swim program has struggled with consistency over the years due to constraints on practice time and training opportunities. Despite these struggles Scarborough boys swim team has won the Class A State Championship the last two years. The first in Scarborough’s history. Wouldn't it be nice to have a home facility?  Your own center to hang your school banner. A community center and pool in town so your friends, family, and neighbors can come and support local program events and competitions.  

And it is not only the schools and children of Scarborough that benefit from a community center and aquatic center. With the 65+ age population in Scarborough increasing 5% in the last 10 years we have a growing group of residents who would benefit from the low impact exercise that pools can provide, and the social opportunities community spaces offer. 

This February the Town Council accepted the Park and Facilities Master Plan. This plan was developed in alignment with the Town’s existing goals as laid out in the comprehensive plan and in response to Town Council’s 2021 resident survey, as well as direct feedback from residents This plan will serve as a blueprint for the Town in planning and maintaining its parks, beaches, and recreational services. The plan identified a community center and aquatic center as a priority for residents.  

In response to the Parks and Facilities Master Plan the Town Council is proposing to create an Ad Hoc Community Center Committee. This committee will be composed of Scarborough residents who will identify residents' desired programs, evaluate the amenities needed for these programs, and work with a consultant to select a site and prepare a conceptual design. The first read for the creation of this committee was at the March 15th Town Council meeting. The second reading and adoption of the committee will take place at the April 19th Town Council meeting. Both the Ad Hoc Community Center Committee and the Consultant will be working to create a facility design that meets the programming demands of our residents with the objective of developing a high revenue, low subsidy facility. Choices will have to be made throughout the development process to meet these objectives. 

A community center has been identified in our comprehensive plans since 2003. The cost of a community center and aquatic center is only going to increase the longer we wait. The time is now.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Scarborough Town Council.