The Patrick Henry Hays Senior Citizens center celebrated its 10th anniversary Sunday afternoon by opening its doors to the general public so people could get a grand tour of Arkansas’ largest senior citizens center.
City Senior Citizens Center Commissioner Eddie Powell said the celebration was a success with many visitors coming to the center.
Powell recalls the days when city leaders were working to get a senior citizens center open in North Little Rock.
Powell served as North Little Rock’s mayor from 1974-79. He also served as chairman of the task force to plan the creation of the senior citizens center.
"We planned it, opened it and equipped it," Powell said. "It has been a marvelous addition to the way of life for many senior citizens."
Charley Baxter, Director, director of the senior citizens center, promoted the Sunday gathering when the North Little Rock City Council met in late August.
"There will not be a lot of speeches," Baxter said. "But we will have our best programs. Line dancing, pool aerobics, playing cards and doing what they do every day," Baxter said.
Powell said Baxter has done a great job as the center’s director.
"We just built the building but Charley and his staff put the programs together," Powell said.
Powell said the center has been a success because it also worked to keep the minds of participating senior citizens active as well as their bodies.
The building was originally 38,000 square feet and organizers hoped it would open the first month with between 500 to 1,000 members. However, after about the first month, there were 5,000 members and now there are 18,000 members, according to Powell.
"We didn’t know how senior citizens would respond," Powell said.
The city initially took $5 million to build it with funds generated from a sales tax passed by voters. The final construction came under budget, he said.
About five years later the facility needed expanded because of increased demand. City taxpayers passed another sales tax and the city added another 22,000 square feet.
"As far as we know, this is the largest senior citizens center in the United States," Powell said.
Powell added he ranks the establishment of the senior citizens center as one of the city’s top five projects it has undertaken in the past 25 years.
The center also has 12 computer stations to help seniors learn technology skills.
AT&T gave us $50,000 and we have 12 computer stations," Powell said. "We have two people up there so we can teach computers to seniors from just the basics to more advanced levels."
The Patrick Henry Hays Center opened in February of 2003 and doubled its size in 2007. This state of the art 60,000 square foot senior center focuses on meeting the needs of today’s active seniors. The Hays Center has grown to thousands of members. This success is due to the ever-changing programs that are largely manned by volunteers. Fitness of the mind and body with a focus on fun has led the staff to create avenues to meet these needs. Opportunities abound at the Center to meet and greet old friends and make new ones at the many activities, special events and trips.
The Fitness Center offers an indoor walking track and over 60 pieces of exercise equipment including; treadmills, exercise bicycles, upper body recumbent cycles, total body recumbent steppers, rowing machine, elliptical trainers, and two sets of pneumatic strength training machines along with several flat screen TVs. Yoga, Tai Chi, and video exercises are held in the Exercise Room equipped with a rubberized floor and the latest technology in audio/visual equipment. The Center also has separate Billiards and Table Tennis rooms and conducts tournaments in each several times a year. Two of the most popular features of the facility are the indoor heated pools. One pool is slightly warmer and provides the perfect place to exercise arthritic joints on your own or in one of the many water aerobics classes. The other pool is cooler and has lane markers primarily for swimming laps.
The grandest space in the Center is the 5,000 square-foot ballroom with its 1,720 square-foot hardwood dance floor. Several weekly classes are offered in Line Dancing, Ballroom Dancing and Zumba dance exercises. Equipped with a grand piano and a full kitchen, this spacious room provides the perfect setting for festive dinners and receptions. This and other spaces are available for class and family reunions, wedding receptions and birthday parties.
Music lovers have the opportunity to join in the weekly Jam Sessions, Gospel Sing-along and an occasional Karaoke sing along. Piano lessons are also available on a limited basis.
Additional amenities include a Game Room, Puzzle Room, Classrooms, Computer Lab, Library, Art and Craft studio, multi-use Activity Rooms, Meeting Room, Art Gallery and Canteen. The Hays Center strives to provide a full array of classes and special activities for anyone age 50 and over.