A large crowd gathered at Eustis Park on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the newly-constructed Senior and Youth Center, a project Aiken City Councilwoman Lessie Price said was "15 years in the making" at the opening ceremony.
At City Council earlier this week, it was announced the center, officially called the Lessie B. Price Aiken Senior and Youth Center, would be named in honor of Price.
"I was not expecting this Monday night," Price said. "I came in totally surprised... Then there was a change on the agenda to add a resolution, and I didn't think anything of it. When our mayor pro-tem Gail (Diggs) began to read the resolution, I was speechless."
Price said the center's opening was "historic," and she hopes it serves and brings people of all ages in Aiken together.
Aiken mayor Rick Osbon said during the opening ceremony on Wednesday the naming of the center in Price's honor was to celebrate one of "Aiken's greatest public servants."
"This is not only a senior center, but is a senior and youth center," Osbon said. "No doubt people will speculate we added youth because of the deal Councilwoman Price made to never become a senior."
Price has served on City Council for 32 years. The longevity of her service is surpassed only by former Aiken mayor H. Odell Weeks.
The 12,600 square-foot center is an extension of Eustis Park. Plans to develop the center were proposed over a decade ago and approved in Capital Projects Sales Tax II. The last stages of construction were completed this month.
The project was valued around $4.5 million. Additional funding came from the Lower Savannah Council of Governments and South Carolina Department of Aging.
Director of the city of Aiken's Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Jessica Campbell spoke about the center's land purchase in 2015 and the work that went into cleaning up the site.
"Pat yourself on the back, because this building would not be here without your support," said Campbell to the gathered crowd at the opening ceremony.
The center is meant to emphasize the importance of "intergenerational activity" between youth and seniors by providing services to both, according to Osbon.
Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, attendees were invited to tour the facility and witness a zumba demonstration – one of the activities that will be held at the center.
The center is both recreation and rental space. It features a large banquet hall that can seat nearly 300 people, a warming kitchen, a computer lounge featuring seven workstations, and an enrichment classroom.
For seniors, the center will provide fitness classes such as yoga and zumba, craft classes, and games like bingo and card clubs.
For youth, programs like Little Yogis and Family Story Time are currently available, but more programs, such as after school tutoring, fitness and cooking classes will be available in the future.
The facility will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rentals will be available in 6-hour increments on weekends.
For more information about the facility, call 803-643-2181.