City council tackles new rec center, LGBTQ rights

Aaron Copora

Kent City Council discussed two big issues at its meeting Wednesday night — a new recreation center and LGBTQ anti-discrimination policies — both of which the council decided they would need more time to think over.

The council examined a proposal for a new health and wellness center. A presentation laid out a plan for the new complex, citing a plethora of statistics and case studies, which examined recreation facilities in Tallmadge, Cuyahoga Falls and Twinsburg. Those studies outlined strategies used by each community to facilitate a recreation center within city limits. 

The proposed facility would be approximately 90,000 square feet and would cost between $18-23 million to build. The council hopes the facility will include crucial amenities like an indoor track, free weights and basketball courts. 

The council has started reaching out to potential partners in the endeavor and has received interest from University Hospitals in acquiring 5,000 square feet. In addition, Kent State and Kent City Schools have shown interest in partnerships.

The facility would fill the need of Kent residents who seeks recreation, but would prefer not to use the Student Wellness and Recreation Center on Kent State’s campus. The proposed recreation center would provide a cheaper and more family-friendly alternative. 

Carolyn Barck, a senior recreation parks and tourism management major at Kent State, spoke at the meeting about the need for a facility like this in Portage County.

“I was trying to convey that the more recreation and community centers that we have, the more access and opportunity they’ll have,” Barck said. “It’s been proven that the more parks and facilities we have in the area, the more active that people will be. “ 

The professor in Barck’s community development and recreation class spent time researching cardiovascular health in seniors. 

“If we can add to the facilities available, then hopefully that will lead to a lower cholesterol level and better overall cardiovascular health,” Barck said. “Since that’s the leading cause of death in our seniors in this county, my goal was to show how important it is for a facility like this.”

The other big item on the agenda was the continued desire for the City of Kent to outlaw the discrimination of LGBTQ community members across local establishments.

The council has already ruled in favor of non-discriminatory legislation in terms of work and housing, but a continued push from the community seeks even more inclusive legislation.

“We are absolutely thrilled and excited to hear that we are moving forward so quickly, that you have been responsive, that you have listened to what we have to say; it is such a life changing event,” said Alice Freitas, the president of Trans*Fusion, Kent State’s trans-alliance group.

Freitas and others were on hand to advocate for a civil commission from the city, to accelerate legislation being put forward to make Kent the 19th city in Ohio to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification.

The council was urged to clearly define and refine the remedies portion of the city code for a later meeting, which would ensure that anyone living, working in or visiting Kent would not face discrimination.

At a previous meeting last month, the council agreed to adapt an ordinance that protects citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identification in a unanimous vote.

Aaron Copora is a reporter, contact him at [email protected]