You’ll forgive Harrison Recreation Director Larry Kelly and Recreation Chairman Larry Bennett if they’re a bit excited about what’s going on at the town’s Rec Center. It’s all because the movie theater turned town community center is undergoing a massive facelift — and once complete, it will be home to a place that will be envy of its neighbors.
Last week, The Observer sat down with the two Larrys and we took a tour of the place, where work is already underway and the transformation apparent. The two say they hope the place is ready by summer’s end — and as such, able to host activities in the fall.
Keep in mind, the center has been closed to all recreation activities since March 2020, and had been serving as the Harrison COVID-19 testing center for months.
“We were completely shut down and were known as the Harrison COVID site,” Kelly says. “It’s been 25 years since we opened up here and nothing new has been done. We’ve got new paint — it’s much brighter. We’re going to regular floors (from indoor-outdoor carpeting) and it’s going to be a much brighter more modern place.”
In addition to all that’s being doing on the inside — we’ll get to all of that shortly — the roof is also being replaced.
“Every since they placed the solar panels here, there have been certain leaks,” Kelly says. “We had the guy here and they knew exactly where the leaks are. The stuff underneath wasn’t done right but they’ll get it right now.”
Kelly says once the upgrades are complete, he’s most excited about getting back to a sense of the way things were before COVID struck.
“We’re excited just to run the programs,” Kelly says. “We’ve gotten thousands of phone calls from people wondering when rec is reopening, when is basketball going to start, when is soccer going to start? Right now we have nothing for the kids. So this is really going to fix that. From traveling soccer to baseball to basketball. It’s been rough not being able to offer the programs.”
When things do reopen, there’s a hope the football program will rebound — it’s been lacking of late, the two say.
“That’s what they’re going to do — go into the schools and try to get kids to come out for football,” Bennett says. “Some of the parents are a little reluctant because of the concussion situation. And a lot of kids here just want to play soccer. And a lot of the towns around here are facing the same thing because everyone wants to play soccer.”
Some towns have actually merged their football programs so it’s easier to field teams. And that has helped those locations. But the football situation is made even more difficult in that Kearny is in an altogether different league, so as of now, it’s not possible, say, for Kelly to call up his Kearny counterpart Recreation Director Ralph Cattafi and say, ‘Hey, ‘let’s merge our programs.’”
Bennett says he also hopes cheerleading may be revamped so there’s an outlet for kids interested in cheer.
So there’s a lot of optimism that once all the work is done, the Harrison Rec Center will once again be hopping.
THE ACTUAL WORK
In addition to the aforementioned new flooring and the brighter paint color throughout the place, Bennett says there will soon be more for adults to do. The weight-lifting room is being revamped with all new equipment and will be available for any town resident 18 and older. In fact, the entire lot of old equipement is being replaced with safer, more modern items.
The Health Department will relocate from the basement of town hall to the second floor of the rec building and will get a much-needed, state-of-the-art examination room. And the game room, once home to a pool table, will be completely reimagined.
In all, it’s a project Mayor James A. Fife and the town council was planning for before the pandemic hit — and all the renovations will be paid for by budget surpluses.
Parents interested in getting their kids signed up for any of the town’s rec programs may do so online by visiting www.townofharrison.com, clicking on services, then community center. Eventually, Kelly expects all registration fees will be able to be paid online. Reach Kelly by phone at (973) 268-5859. The center remains closed to the public while renovations are in progress.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.