The city’s community centers often host activities and sports leagues that encourage residents to get out and sweat. But without air conditioning, some of the centers can be tough to bear during the summer months.
Eight of the city’s 18 community centers with gyms do not have air conditioning.
“When there’s moisture in the air, it’s hot and muggy,” said Kaylah Nance Webb, a supervisor at Biltmore Hills Community Center in South Raleigh. “The floor is extremely slick during those conditions.”
Biltmore Hills is home to 10 to 15 programs throughout the year, including three adult basketball leagues.
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During the summer, attendance numbers for the men’s league plummet because the players prefer to use facilities with air conditioning, Webb said.
But female basketball players don’t have a choice. Biltmore Hills hosts the only women’s league in the city.
“They just keep praying that we’ll get A/C one day,” Webb said.
Upgrades to air conditioning systems are included in the $91.78 million parks bond referendum Raleigh voters will consider in November.
If approved, $2 million will be set aside for building upgrades, according to Raleigh’s recreation superintendent Ken Hisler. That category includes heating and cooling in a number of buildings in the parks and recreation system and is not restricted to gyms and community centers.
The Brier Creek and Barwell Road community centers, built in 2005 and 2006, were the first in the city to have air conditioning. Since then, the city has included A/C is every new facility and has gradually updated older buildings.
“We try to get at least one a year (upgraded),” Hisler said.
The cost of installing air conditioning ranges from about $200,000 for a single gym to $400,000 for a double gym. Hisler said if the parks bond is approved, the department has a five-year plan to upgrade five existing facilities.
If the bond fails, he said, his staff would need to reconsider the options.
Councilman Wayne Maiorano, who has received complaints from citizens about the lack of air conditioning, said the city needs to decide which improvements to the parks and recreation system are most important.
“We’ve got a phenomenal parks program and parks system,” he said. “If we’ve got them, we want to make sure they’re fully functioning.”