The ‘Taj Mahal of Community Centers’ has just celebrated its 25th birthday
By Khalida Sarwari
The Campbell Community Center recently celebrated its quarter-century anniversary. And as with any birthday celebration, cake and laughs were in order, along with a little bit of reflection.
The past 25 years saw the center transformed from a dilapidated high school campus to a site that today flourishes. Hundreds converge upon the Campbell Community Center daily for the ever-expanding list of programs and services it offers to residents and visitors alike. Day camps keep the kids busy, while seniors take advantage of other programs. Programs take place all day and evening, usually from 6 a.m. to about 10 p.m. and sometimes to midnight. The center is also the site of Silicon Valley Reads programs and naturalization ceremonies.
“It really has sort of become a place where people come to be safe,” said Cynthia Bojorquez, Campbell’s director of recreation and community services. “You’re really looking at a facility that brings people together.”
She said Campbell has managed to keep its community center open seven days a week by staying within its means and avoiding the fiscal problems faced by such neighboring cities as San Jose. It’s a model that emphasizes the importance of donations and sponsorships as well as partnerships with other agencies.
“We really are blessed here in Campbell with residents who just roll up their sleeves and say, ‘We’re here to help. How can we help?’ ” Bojorquez said.
It’s hard to imagine that just 25 years ago, no such place existed in Campbell. What stood in its place instead was the Campbell High School–that is, until the school shut down and the city purchased the land for $9 million from the Campbell Union High School District and started turning it into the community center that stands at 1 W. Campbell Ave. today.
The center opened on Nov. 30, 1987, and over the years underwent numerous renovations “to make it the crown jewel” of the community that it is today, said Bojorquez. The improvements include the installation of a skate park, relocation of the tennis courts and renovation of the sports fields. The campus offers fitness fiends amenities of all kinds from an outdoor track to a pool, two gyms and dance studios.
“Over the years we’ve made it become the Taj Mahal of community centers,” said Bojorquez of the 158,000-square-foot facility, which is also home to the Orchard City Banquet Hall and the Heritage Theatre.
The banquet hall was transformed from a school cafeteria to a site for community meetings, private rentals and banquets. This past year the hall was awarded a LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council following the completion of a $3 million renovation project in 2011 that included the installation of a new kitchen with new appliances.
Similarly, the Heritage Theatre was built in 1938 as the Campbell Union High School Auditorium and restored in 2004 with additions that include accessible public entry, an enlarged lobby, ticketing, accessible restrooms, a backstage area, a loading dock and an outdoor public area. The site now offers state-of-the-art sound and lighting and hosts numerous concerts, musicals, plays, recitals, performances, lectures and corporate events.
More changes are in store for the center. Starting this month, a classroom used for a cooking course will be redesigned to bring the room up-to-date and make it more conducive to cooking, said Bojorquez. The community center will also change its registration systems to make it more accessible and convenient to users.
Health and wellness will be a primary focus in 2013, according to Bojorquez. On Jan. 11, the center will host a Community Champions Celebration and Comedy Night from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Heritage Theatre, featuring ComedySportz. The event will serve a twofold purpose: It is an opportunity to recognize individuals and groups that have been instrumental in the community center’s success over the years, and it also will be a fundraiser for a new outdoor fitness area for children and youth. The goal, said Bojorquez, is to raise about $80,000 for the construction of the area along with programming.
“We really are committed to creating healthy communities,” she said. “We want to have an area where kids can work out. We want [recreation] to be something that’s accessible and affordable for everyone.”
Tickets for the event are $25 for adults and $15 for youth and seniors and can be purchased by visiting the Heritage Theatre box office at the community center or by calling 408.866.2700 or visitng heritagetheatre.org.