City closes Vare Recreation Center

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Vare Recreation Center closed: Dann Cuellar reports on Action News at 11 p.m., October 17, 2017 (WPVI)

Philadelphia officials have closed the Vare Recreation Center for the foreseeable future. The center's 100-year-old building can no longer be operated safely.

Residents are devastated and, for right now, it's not known just how long the rec center will be closed.

"We decided that safety comes first and we really needed to ensure the safety of the young people and adults who use the facility," said Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. "So we made the call to close the facility."

The now dilapidated facility in the 2600 block of Morris Street has been a hub for many community activities over the years.

"They have a lot of memorials and rallies and stuff for people that have passed away due to gun violence," said Amanda Burton, of South Philadelphia. "I think this is an important building and that they need to get back up on its feet."

Vare is one of the city's most active rec centers. People are scrambling to relocate events to other locations.

"This is a community right here that needs this recreation center," said resident Odessa Brown. "We don't have anywhere else for our kids to go."

A structural engineering firm hired by the city has determined the building is structurally not safe for occupancy and it is in serious need of major repairs.

Mayor Jim Kenney and his administration pointed out the extensive repairs needed at Vare underscore the immediate need for his 'Rebuild Initiative,' which would address decades of under-investment in the city's parks, rec centers and libraries.

"Those capital needs over time have increased, the buildings have deteriorated and we're at a point now that if we can't make those improvements, Vare might not be the last facility we need to close," said Lovell. "Rebuild is happening at a really critical time in the city."

In the interim, Vare's outdoor spaces, including playgrounds and ball fields will remain open.

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City closes Vare Recreation Center: Dann Cuellar reports on Action News at 6 p.m., October 17, 2017

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