Public recreation centers are generally assumed to be places for the community to gather, exercise, compete in friendly competition and participate in other programming. In times of emergency, however, their role becomes even more vital.
With record low temperatures blasting much of the Midwest, many community recreation centers are opening their doors as emergency warming centers, accommodating community members who lose their own heat or who otherwise don’t have anywhere to find shelter from the cold.
One such facility is the Medina (Ohio) Community Recreation Center, which is allowing people access to its community rooms from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Feb. 1.
Cleveland.com reports that the facility’s director Mike Wright spoke with mayor Dennis Hanwell at a council meeting before implementing the idea on Tuesday.
“It’s really just an area for them to come in and get out of the cold for a few hours or however long they want to stay during our hours of operation,” Wright told Cleveland.com.
The cold temperatures, along with how long they’re expected to remain, prompted the decision to open the facility.
“This is kind of unusual to have temperatures this low for this many days,” Hanwell said.
Since the facility remained open throughout the arctic blast, it made sense to shuffle the schedule and make the community room available. Doing so placed no extra burden on the facility’s staff, and doesn’t otherwise disrupt the rec center’s normal operations.
“It’s a community building that we have available here, and if it could help some folks out we just want to make it available,” Hanwell said.
On Thursday morning, Medina was facing temperatures of negative 3 degrees Fahrenheit. A wind chill warning projected that wind chills could reach as far as 35 degrees below 0.