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Recreation Center Renovations Boost Morale in Greenbelt West

It's not just paint and lighting that's changing in Springhill Lake Recreation Center. The kids' spirits are getting a boost.

Moving quickly from room to room in on Wednesday, recreation coordinator Brian Butler talked animatedly about the new renovations.

Most of the changes—like the new windows, ceiling lights in the gym and renovated bathrooms—are visible. But it's more than paint and new tiles that have Butler excited.

"I love watching their faces. They look around," he said, then imitated the wide-eyed expression that he sees over and over as youth come into the center and see the changes.

Butler used to hear complaints from the kids about how they were treated differently from Center City in Greenbelt. "But now it's," Brian said, then finished his statement by moving his arm straight out indicating a flat line of nothing.

Center City or historic Greenbelt has an , , and a myriad of Recreation Department sponsored events.

Greenbelt's award-winning Recreation Department prides itself in following a prime directive from the city's founding in 1937 — to be a recreational oasis in the midst of urban squalor. But residents in Greenbelt West have complained they do not get the same attention as the city's historic core.

Since Fieldstone Properties took over management of Greenbelt West's 2,877-unit rental complex, now Franklin Park, however, in October 2010, .

The excitement is building, according to Butler, who continued to break out in a smile throughout his facility tour. He talked about how people in Greenbelt West have witnessed the entire community changing, and now the recreation center itself is in the midst of it.

Butler said he's been working full time in the recreation center for 12 years and knows the regulars who come back year after year. "Some of them thought it would never happen in their life," he said.

At Monday's Greenbelt City Council meeting, Mayor Pro-Tem Emmett Jordan brought up the renovations, asking if there was any way they could be complete before the Christmas break for the young people.

Assistant City Manager David Moran told council there were delays due to back ordered items for lighting, the storefront entrance and exits. He also thought it likely that there would be a switch from the paint that had been used on part of the gym.

Despite these holdups, Moran told the council, "I am very hopeful that the overwhelming majority of the renovations will be complete by the Christmas holidays or the end of December."

"I would love to see it done by Christmas," Butler said. But if the major renovations were through by the beginning of boys and girls club basketball season in early January — "That would be good too," he said.

Judging by Butler's permanent grin, he isn't waiting for the holidays to celebrate — he started with the first wide-eyed look that showed up on a kid's face.

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