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Punta Gorda moves forward with Cooper Street Rec Center lease agreement

The Cooper Street Rec Center has been a staple in the city's Black community since the 1960's.
Posted at 9:06 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 21:06:28-04

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — The Punta Gorda City Council has moved one step closer to reaching an agreement with the YMCA of Southwest Florida to take control of the historic Cooper Street Rec Center.

The Cooper Street Rec Centerhas been a staple in Punta Gorda’s Black community since the 1960’s, and has provided child care, community events and a safe place for residents since then.

Cooper Street Rec Center Mural
A mural painted on the Cooper Street Rec Center.

On Tuesday, the council held a workshop where citizens could voice their concerns and give feedback on lease terms with the Y.

One resident, Rev. Ellison Haddock, told Fox 4 he remembers going to the Rec as a child and hopes citizens will have access to the building as they have in the past.

“I’ve seen the very beginning of it,” said Haddock. “The way they have it right now is that when kids are there nobody else can be in the building. So, how can we work this so the community has access to the building?”

Rev Haddock speaks to council
Rev. Ellison Haddock speaks to the council regarding the Cooper Street Rec Center lease.

Representatives from the YMCA of Southwest Florida, including CEO Gene T. Jones gave a presentation at the workshop and explained that not all of the services that it plans to offer at the Rec would be known until it completes a needs assessment and speaks with community stakeholders.

YMCA Punta Gorda Community Board member Dr. Paul Curtis told Fox 4 the Y’s goal is to provide services that meet the community’s needs and protect the culture that surrounds the facility.

“I really want to keep its reputation and the historic value that it has alive,” said Dr. Curtis. “We are going to petition and move forward and continue to have a forward way of thinking for everyone. It has to be a cohesive group, collaboration is the only way we’re going to make this happen.”

Cooper Street Rec Center.
Cooper Street Rec Center.

Details of the lease like rent costs and the length of the contract must be approved by council, likely during a meeting in June according to Mayor Lynne Mathews.

“We want to make sure that it's a successful venture for all of us because I think it’s really important that we maintain a facility that's open to that whole community and they offer as many activities as they can for the east side,” said Mathews.

The City Council hopes to have the lease agreement reached by July 1.