Interest in Saginaw’s Civitan Recreation Center relaunch is growing, city manager says

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SAGINAW, MI – The Saginaw Transit Authority Regional Service (STARS) will park a portion of its bus fleet at the site of the former Civitan Recreation Center after city leaders approved leasing the parking lot for a year at a cost of $1.

The move could represent the first in a series of steps that will see STARS move some of its operations to the long-defunct city-owned facility on the North Side property at 445 N. Second.

Not everyone agrees with this plan, and other individuals and organizations are eyeing the site for potential future use.

The Saginaw City Council approved the rental of the parking lot to STARS at its meeting on Monday, April 4. At the same rally, Saginaw resident Lance Cope said he hoped the council would consider restoring the structure to a community center for young people. From the building’s opening in 1976 until about a decade ago, the structure hosted basketball tournaments and youth-focused after-school programs.

Last weekend, Cope launched a social media-focused campaign to restore the Civitan as a community center. On Saginaw-centric Facebook groups, he uploaded video footage of himself cleaning up the parking lot and calling on residents to sign a petition for his cause.

“Our young people, they have nowhere to go and nothing to do,” the 36-year-old told the council on Monday.

“The Civitan could offer computer learning, lunch bags, game rooms, motivational speakers, movie days, field trips, volleyball, basketball, football, transportation for you bring home safely. I want to see the Civitan open and I want to see a better future for our children.

Saginaw Town Manager Tim Morales said three organizations expressed interest in the facility in the days after a Saginaw News/MLive report on the Civitan Recreation Center was published last week. Morales did not identify the organizations, although he said one of the groups had expressed interest in reviving the facility as a youth-focused business.

The future of the former leisure center may depend on a feasibility study conducted by STARS.

Transit leaders in the coming weeks hope to award a contract to determine if the Civitan Recreation Center facility could one day serve as a training center and home for paratransit operations for STARS. Paratransit operations provide specialized transportation for certain users, including people with disabilities and seniors.

In its current state, the building has significant interior damage, including warped floors and broken windows.

Under the ownership of Saginaw City Hall, authorities first closed the building in 2003 due to budget cuts.

In 2005, Saginaw leaders leased the building to a church, Faith Life Center, which reopened the facility for youth sports for two years. Afterwards, First Ward Community Service staff held activities there for a time.

Other activities kept the recreation center alive until the early 2010s, including an annual giveaway of food and supplies Saginaw native and retired NFL star LaMarr Woodley provided to families in Saginaw during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The city sold the facility for $1 in 2018 to the LaMarr Woodley Foundation. Officials announced plans to reopen the property as a community center, but that move fell through. Saginaw bought the site two years ago, Morales said.

Parking updates

At Monday’s meeting, Saginaw City Council also approved another parking lot resolution.

The city has awarded a $449,875 contract to Champagne & Marx Excavating, Inc., based in Kochville Township, to rehabilitate the Anderson Enrichment Center parking lot, 120 Ezra Rust, as well as resurface and expand the City Fire Training Center parking lot near the intersection of South Water and East Remington.

Officials said the parking lot reconstruction projects will run from mid-April to mid-August, according to city records.

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