Wednesday, November 11, 2020 Susan Schrock, Office of Communication

Whether you're looking to take a fitness class, host a pool party, browse the bookshelves or borrow a laptop to do some work online, the newly opened East Library and Recreation Center offers a variety of programs, amenities and resources for residents of all ages.

The combined recreation center and library, located at 1817 New York Ave. at Bob Cooke Park in East Arlington, is the first of its kind in The American Dream City. City and community leaders celebrated the grand opening of the 47,249-square-foot facility Monday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and staff-guided tours. Arlington voters approved $26 million for a new facility to replace the Hugh Smith Recreation Center and the East Branch Library in the 2014 Bond Election.

“Libraries and parks and recreation make great neighborhoods,” Libraries Director Norma Zuniga said during the event. “The investment made in this community will leave a legacy for years to come.”

Library visitors have access to public computing, printing, faxing, scanning, and mobile printing capabilities for a low-cost as well as free wi-fi and device charging stations.

Younger patrons can participate in bilingual story times and dynamic programming that includes exploring STEAM concepts. Youth are also able to explore technology through Discovery Stations and access homework resources as well as educational games through designated children’s computers.

Additionally, the library’s adult education program includes High School Equivalency, English as a Second Language (ESL), and Citizenship classes as well as workforce training opportunities.

The recreation side of the facility features a gymnasium with full-size basketball court, multiple workout locations, locker rooms, group exercise room, community rooms, childcare center, and outdoor recreational amenities.

“Arlington’s parks system is a major community asset that repays its capital investments every day. Our parks assets contribute significantly to the overall wellbeing of the community, improving real estate values, nurturing community identity, improving neighborhoods, and enhancing lives and job performance as individuals exercise, play and relieve stress,” Parks Director Lemuel Randolph said.

The center’s 113,000-gallon indoor pool, which has a party room available for rent, will operate year-round and provide a perfect spot for lap swim, aqua-fitness classes, swim lessons and leisure play.

Tom and Kay Schlueter, who have lived in east Arlington for 32 years, toured the new facility Monday. The Schlueters said their own children grew up swimming at the indoor pool at the former Hugh Smith Recreation Center, and now they look forward to bringing their grandchildren to swim at the new indoor pool.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” said Tom Schlueter.

Though temporarily delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the East Library and Recreation Center will offer dedicated space for seniors to gather for meals, crafts, educational seminars, games and more.

Monday’s speakers included State Representative Chris Turner, who helped secure a $750,000 Texas Library and Archives Commission grant for the new library’s future Innovation Zone.

This Innovation Zone Grant will allow Arlington to expand internet availability, create a tech-centered community outdoor space, and increase the technological capabilities within the building.

This will include the creation of a high-tech community room and a video chat room that visitors can use for classes, meetings, and virtual appointments, including appointments with medical providers.

“We know that in the 2020s access to technology is not a luxury, it is a necessity. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven home that point by exposing the tremendous digital divide we have in places across our country and across Texas,”Turner said. “When our citizens don’t have access to technology - the internet itself or the devices that help us access the internet- our citizens suffer. Children can’t keep up with their studies, people can’t apply for jobs, students can’t apply to college or for student financial aid. Even something as simple as paying a bill can be a problem.”

The library’s Innovation Zone is a positive step forward to bridging the digital divide in East Arlington, Turner said.

Access to technology and bridging the digital divide must be a priority for government at all levels, Turner said.

“We have a lot of work to do still. But today in east Arlington, we have taken a positive step forward in this partnership between the State of Texas and the City of Arlington,” Turner said. “I’m very proud to be a small part of it.”

East Library and Recreation Center

1817 New York Ave. at Bob Cooke Park

Library hours

• Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
• Friday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
• Sunday 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Recreation Center hours

• Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. - 9 p.m.
• Saturday, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
• Sunday, 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.