Youngsters were turned away when they showed up at the Rim Country Middle School Monday morning for the opening of the town-sponsored summer youth recreation program. The reason, they were told, was that the facility was not deemed ready.
Recreation Coordinator Beth Kreider said the decision was made to delay the start of the program probably until June 14 because the RCMS gym is being readied for construction of a new band and music classroom on the former stage area.
However, how long the program remains open is in question.
According to Joe Martin, director of support operations for the Payson School District, a Phoenix company will soon begin construction of the new classroom. It's expected to take about three weeks to complete the project.
When construction begins, the program might be forced to shut down for safety reasons, Kreider said.
Bruce Haught, who began the program 12 years ago, agrees with Kreider, saying on-going construction would make it difficult to conduct a successful and safe program.
Martin disagrees, saying it would be possible for the program to remain open during the construction phase as long as supervisors restrict the children to the gym floor and not allow them near the stage.
Without the stage area -- which in previous years has been where the pool, ping pong, air hockey, and foosball tables have been located -- recreational activities will be limited to only those that can occur on the gym floor or outdoors, like basketball, volleyball or softball.
"The stage area has been 9/10 of what we do," Haught said. "Pool and air hockey are the most popular (activities)."
It's possible, he said, to move the popular table games to the gym floor, but there's still the health and safety concerns created by the on-going construction.
Several years ago, a similar situation existed when the RCMS gym was not available and the program was relocated to the Payson High gymnasium.
That is not an option this year, however, because the facility is also under construction, being outfitted with a new roof.
Haught said another possibility is the rock building at Julia Randall Elementary School.
"If we can't get in (RCMS gym), maybe we can go there," he said.
But Kreider says Julia Randall is not a possibility since the Recreation Department ceased using the facility years ago.
"It's a security problem there. You can't secure the gymnasium from the classrooms and that's not a good situation," she said.
Haught, Kreider and other recreation officials will huddle late this week to look for a solution to the dilemma.
"We want to do something to keep this program open. We could open at Rim Country and when the ( construction company) begins work, assess as we go," Kreider said.
Youths in 4th through 10th grades are eligible to participate in the program that this year -- for the first time --will include day trips to Arizona Cardinals football camp in Flagstaff and to Camp Tontozona, where the Arizona State University Sun Devils will conduct pre-season practices.
When the rec center opens -- whether it be at RCMS or another location -- the hours will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays until July 30.
No registration is required and admission is free.
In addition to Haught, Chuck Hardt and Cheri Brennen supervise the program.